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Oil And Water

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Aymeric very nearly sighed when the peace of his blissfully quiet office was shattered by Aza literally kicking his door down.

Literally, because as Aza staggered in, flush with pride like a hunting hound bringing back a fallen fowl for its master, his arms were full in contending with a very flustered and spitting mad Estinien struggling in the world’s most ridiculous headlock. The Azure Dragoon himself was bent over almost double in the most undignified way possible, as Aza kept a terrifyingly tight hold around his neck with one firm, muscular arm.

“Aymeric! Look!” Aza panted breathlessly, merrily ignoring Estinien stabbing him repeatedly in the ribs with his pointy elbow, “Look who I found lurking on the roof!”

Estinien went still at that, having just realised where Aza had dragged his struggling ass to, and awkwardly craned his head up enough to see Aymeric staring at them with the flattest, most unimpressed stare he could muster. Estinien glowered right back.

“Hello, Estinien,” Aymeric said, like this was a perfectly normal way to be reunited with an old friend who pulled a vanishing trick almost a half a year ago and didn’t bother to pick up a pen to write during his absence (no he is not bitter), “You seem to have grown shorter.”

“Hello, Aymeric,” Estinien grunted back, managing to mimic his tone, “You seem to have gotten, ngh, dourer.”

“Anyone would be ‘dour’ looking at your ugly mug,” Aza huffed, “He kicked me off the roof, y’know,” he told Aymeric.

Kicked-!? You dragged us off when you tackled me!” Estinien protested vehemently, managing to coordinate his feet enough to stomp down – hard- on Aza’s steel-capped boots.

Aza yelped, hopping awkwardly, dragging Estinien with him for a few moments until-

CRASH!

Aymeric watched as the pair of them tumbled to the floor in a clumsy mess of limbs and weapons. There was a brief – and admittedly hilarious – moment where Aza was like a turtle, the massive blade strapped to his back making him unable to get up from where he’d fallen, legs and arms flailing loosely as he tried in vain to roll himself over. Estinien, who managed to make his fall a little smoother despite his hair now sticking everywhere after Aza’s abuse, stopped to laugh at him, still on his knees next to the Miqo’te-

Only for Aza’s flailing hand to grab a handful of his hair and pull-

Ow! You little-!”

“Hm,” Aymeric muttered, watching as Estinien descended on the prone Miqo’te to pry his hair loose, only to get drawn into a wrestling match better suited to two rowdy children tussling in the snow. He lifted his gaze from the pair to the knight on guard duty at his door, who was peering in with his mouth agape, “Knight Oseux, could you get me a bucket of water, please?”

“S-Sir!”

The knight raced off, and after Aymeric checked to see they were keeping their brawl reasonably contained to the floor, went back to his paperwork to the background noise of hissed curses (Estinien), yelps (both) and triumphant, cackling laughter (Aza). After a while though, the nature of their fighting changed.

“Alphinaud was so worried when you vanished! You didn’t even bother writing him!”

“He’s not some whelp clinging to his mother’s skirts! He doesn’t need me lurking at his shoulder, helping him! He liberated two countries!”

“You could have sent him a letter! Even Aymeric, you insensitive clod!”

“Clod!? Who even uses that word-”

“YOU DO! YOU JUST CALLED ME IT TWO MINUTES AGO YOU STUPID-”

“The water, sir!” Knight Oseux yelled from the doorway, holding it up over his head like it was the holy grail. Estinien and Aza were oblivious to him.

“Thank you, Knight Oseux,” Aymeric said, pushing up from his desk and walking over. He absent-mindedly hopped over Aza and Estinien still rolling about on the floor, took the bucket from Oseux and without pausing turned around and promptly dumped all of its freezing cold contents over the pair of them. 

Every Knight in the Congregation of the Knights Most Heavenly stopped as one with a shudder when twin, high-pitched screams echoed throughout the entire building from the Lord Commander’s office.

 


 

“Right, now that we’re sufficiently cooled off…”

Aza and Estinien both stood there, shivering and dripping wet, shooting glowers at each other. Aymeric aggressively ignored it, smiling mildly at the pair of them. He was pleased when they very quickly looked down at their feet when they spotted it, wary of annoying him again. Good boys.

“What brings you to these parts, Estinien?” Aymeric asked, curious despite his personal bitterness. He knew why Estinien had to leave – knew that Nidhogg’s possession had worn at something inside of him, that staying in Ishgard was too painful… so it was strange to see him physically here. He still could have written a damned letter though.

“I was merely checking up on you,” Estinien muttered, combing his fingers through his wet hair, trying to fix what mess Aza’s vicious hair-pulling had done, “Things have grown quiet, now that Ala Mhigo and Doma both have been liberated, and… I wished to see how things were here.”

“Meaning, he got lonely and sad roaming the wilderness by himself, so he popped by to dramatically pose on the rooftop,” Aza translated, which was unnecessary because Aymeric gathered that himself just fine.

“You never wrote,” Aymeric pointed out, because this honestly annoyed him, “Did they not have pens and parchment, out in the wilderness?”

Estinien’s mouth twisted, his eyes squinting in what looked like pain, “Aymeric…”

“Estinien,” Aymeric returned.

Aza, thankfully, remained quiet – no doubt content that he had shit-stirred enough, and turned away from the pair of them to give them a semblance of privacy by busying himself with drying off his tail. He had an ear flicked towards them though, which kind of ruined the sentiment, but whatever.

“What would I write?” Estinien asked in open frustration, “Hello, I am well? Still too ashamed to return to Ishgard? I hope the Republic hasn’t caved in on itself yet?”

“Yes, you could have written that,” Aymeric snapped, “At the very least that you were still alive. I understood your need to leave, Estinien, and I didn't question it when you sent nothing for a few weeks… even a month, I was tolerating it. But almost six months, anything could have happened to you.”

“I’m perfectly capable surviving in the wilderness by myself,” Estinien muttered, “There was no cause for worry.”

“But I worried anyway, as your friend and comrade.”

“I didn’t ask you to worry.”

“You-” Aymeric paused, suddenly hit with the oddest feeling of déjà vu, like he had this conversation before – when he realised he had, just with Aza. By Halone, no wonder Aza and Estinien got along like oil and water, they were too alike. He wasn’t quite sure what to do with this revelation.

“Aymeric?” Estinien had straightened up from his sullen slouch, attentive to his abrupt quietness – even Aza had turned back to him, instantly combative and alert, like he expected to catch a Garlean assassin dropping out of the ceiling at any second.

“Nothing,” Aymeric pushed the odd feeling aside, “It’s nothing. There isn’t much we can do about it now… though, if you’re going to disappear again, I demand letters.”

Estinien frowned, slouching back when he realised Aymeric wasn’t going to suddenly keel over, “Demand, hm?”

“Once every two weeks,” Aymeric drawled, relaxing back into familiar, comfortable banter that he… really hadn’t had with him in too long, “You’re lucky I’m being so generous. A fortnight is plenty of time for even you to think of some topic to write about.”

Aza coughed over a laugh and Estinien glowered at him – but didn’t hide the small smile beginning to tug at his lips. Clearly his friend had missed him too.

“I’m not so sure,” Estinien hummed, “Perhaps you’ll need to sketch out a template for myself to follow. To ensure my letter passes muster with our esteemed Speaker of the House of Lords.”

Aymeric made a face, as he always did whenever anyone referred to him by that title, and Aza chimed in, in that slow, drawling way of his when he was teasing; “Oh, I dunno, Aymeric’s idea of a letter probably won’t jive with you, Estinien.”

“Aza,” Aymeric muttered warningly, glancing at his smirking partner.

“I remember, one time, he wrote me a letter when I was away running a long-term hunting mission with Clan Centurio. I was gone for well over a month, and he was obviously very lonely and missing me,” Aza began, “I still keep it on me, because he wrote me the sweetest and loving bit of poet-

THAT IS VERY PRIVATE a-and not for Estinien to know,” Aymeric began in a panicked yell, quickly modulating back to normal volume when Estinien’s eyes lit up with an unholy glee he unfortunately recognised. He almost broke out in a cold sweat.

“Poetry…?” Estinien murmured softly, hungrily, his smile turning into a grin, “Poetry, Aymeric?”

“It was very nice,” Aza confirmed, reaching into his breastplate for the inner pocket and – pulled out a well-worn piece of parchment, folded over and clearly read over often, though for sentimentality or for mockery, Aymeric wasn’t sure, “Here, I’ll read you my favour-”

“KNIGHT OSEUX GET ME ANOTHER BUCKET NOW!”

 


 

It went without saying that Aza ended up having to spend the night in the Forgotten Knight with Estinien, as Aymeric was now giving them both the cold shoulder.

(It will only last a night, but it was a night too long in Estinien’s opinion, who had been saddled with the unwanted position of being the shoulder for Aza to drunkenly cry on. He should’ve chosen to stalk Alphinaud instead – even if it was nice to see his oldest friend again…)

Chapter Text

A drunken Aza was… an experience.

“So, Eshtinininin…” Aza slurred, mangling his name for the sixth time that evening, “I’ve gotsa question for you. Y’don’t hafta answer but, jus’ wonderin’…”

Estinien humoured him, watching him with heavy-lidded eyes as he lounged in his frankly terrible chair. He didn’t know who Gribillont bought his chairs from, but they needed to be kicked from the Steps of Faith for their crimes against comfort, “Spit it out.”

“Well,” Aza huffed at being hurried, slumping further on the table as he pointed his bottle at Estinien, at an angle where the cheap ale almost poured straight out of it, “Didja ever fuck Aymeric?”

Estinien went still.

“S’just… I mean, you two’re cloooose,” Aza continued blithely, “Like, Aymeric knows really weirdly inti- inter… personal stuff about you, close.”

Estinien delayed in answering by taking a small sip of his drink, gauging Aza’s mood. The Miqo’te didn’t seem overtly jealous or suspicious – in fact, he was staring right at him with honest, albeit drunken, curiosity. This could either go well or poorly, and the fact that Aza had already proven he could beat him into the ground whenever he so wished made him slightly leery of tempting the latter. At least he was too drunk to tie his own shoelaces at this point, might give him a headstart if he needed to leap down the stairs into the Brume.

So, he spoke the truth.

“We were bedmates once, yes.”

“Bedmates…” Aza tried the word, making a face, “Jus’ say it straightout, Esty. Fuck-buddies, right?”

Estinien rolled his eyes, “I was trying to be tasteful, but, fine, yes, ‘fuck-buddies’.”

Aza crowed in delight, throwing himself back in his seat as he lifted his hands high in the air, as if in victory, “I bloody knew it! Ha! Haha! Bluebird owes me!”

Estinien watched him for a bit, amused at Aza’s delight, before asking, “It doesn’t bother you?”

“Why should it?” Aza scoffed, “You’re not fuckin’ him now, behind my back, are you?”

“No.”

“Then I don’t care,” Aza set his bottle down clumsily, “In faaaact… I should thank you. I mean, Aymeric’s had to’ve learned that stuff from somewhere, and I found out where. So’s, thank you, Esty, for, uh, I don’t know, being a really good fuck?”

Well, this night was shaping up to be really weird. Estinien blinked at him, slowly, before saying a mite uncertainly, “You’re welcome?”

Aza nodded decisively, clearly content with his response, and sighed heavily, “Ah… but now Aymeric’s all mad at me, so prob’ly won’t get t’enjoy fun bed times with him…”

“You probably shouldn’t have teased him about his poetry,” Estinien pointed out dryly, “I remember he was always a little sensitive about it, back in the day.”

“But it was so cute!” Aza whined, “Adorable! Also, he goes really red and flustered and…”

Yeah, Estinien knew. It also used to be his goal to achieve that level of fluster with the normally unflappable Aymeric. He used to make it a game, to crack his calm – especially in public. Aymeric got very good at subtly digging his elbows into sore spots in retaliation for that, he recalled fondly. But, of course, he got promoted to Lord Commander, and he in charge of the Dragoons, and such relations were heavily inappropriate to maintain, so they drifted apart in that respect. He was actually surprised when he felt a small pang of loss at the thought. Hm, he would have thought he’d grown out of such childish infatuation by now, especially with Aymeric being a claimed man now, but emotions, he knew, were such fickle things.

He buried it without blinking an eye. It didn’t matter now.

“He’ll forgive you by the morning,” Estinien told him, because Aymeric was quick to forgive those he was sweet on, “Just look as pathetic as you do now when grovelling for forgiveness.”

“Bah,” Aza sniffed at him, “I don’t grovel.”

Estinien looked at him, full of doubt.

“Well, maybe a lil’,” Aza amended, “A tiiiiny lil’ bit… a smidge?”

He looked at him harder.

“Oh, fuckin’ – fine. I’ll toss myself at his feet and wail for forgiveness,” Aza grumped, then suddenly frowned, peering at Estinien closely, “Hey… if you fucked Aymeric, and I’m fuckin’ him… then does that mean we’ve fucked like- like an indirect kiss, but with sex?”

“I think,” Estinien said, “That’s a sign for you to stop drinking.”

“What? Naaaah!”

“Give me that bottle, Aza.”

“Esty, c’mon, don’t cut me off!”

“Give it.”

“Oi, no, over my dead bod- hey!” 

Gribillont looked up at Aza’s shriek, and just sighed when he saw the short Miqo’te get brusquely manhandled by Estinien. He knew better than to get involved, so he just returned to determinedly cleaning out the glass in hand, ignoring as the old Azure Dragoon hefted the squawking Warrior of Light over his shoulder and marched towards the inn rooms. It was none of his business. Nope. Not at all.

 


 

Aza stirred awake with a groan, feeling like he’d just been punched in the head by Titan.

“Oh, fuck me…” he rasped, his mouth tasting like death as he slowly pushed himself up. It took him a moment to recognise his blurry surroundings as the inn room to the Forgotten Knight, and was briefly confused before remembering – oh, right, Aymeric was pissed off at him. Bleh. He huffed as he ran a hand through his hair, grimacing at it being unbound and settling around his ears in a wavy, fuzzy mess, as it always did whenever his braid came loose, and blindly slid off his bed.

And almost shrieked in surprise when he practically tripped over Estinien lying on the floor.

“Holy fucking-!” Aza was back on the bed, hangover forgotten and heart somewhere up in the stratosphere at the fright, peering down at Estinien who was squinting tiredly up at him, “Estinien?!”

“Ugh, why’re you screeching like a harpy?”

“You scared me!” Aza huffed, settling back down. He really didn’t like tripping over random bodies after just waking up – it terrified him to think of sleeping in a room with a stranger he didn’t know. He had nightmares of that happening, it wasn’t cool. “What’re you doing on the floor?”

“…there was only one bed,” Estinien said, forcing himself up with a low groan. His hair too, Aza was pleased to note, was also a mess, “And it seemed inappropriate to share with you, with how drunk you were.”

Aza frowned, but then decided that was a good call. If he woke up with someone he didn’t immediately recognise as either his FC mates or Aymeric, he probably would’ve strangled Estinien first before asking questions. A minor scare of almost tripping over him was more preferable than that panic-inducing scenario.

“Oh, okay,” Aza said somewhat lamely, then he remembered he was horrifically hungover and his stomach really did not like him leaping about like that, and instantly groaned, “Ugh, fuck…”

Estinien, wisely, immediately hopped to his feet and got out of any potential splash range, “I think I should get back to my business-”

No,” Aza growled, pushing past his nausea and pointing at him aggressively, “You’re staying. You don’t get to turn up after months of absence only to fuck off the next day without even properly catching up with Aymeric.”

“I wasn’t aware you were in control when I can and can’t leave,” Estinien murmured, voice dangerously soft.

Aza wasn’t cowed. He was too ill to care and also knew he could take him if he had to. He’d probably puke on him, but he could take him, “I don’t, but at least be a decent fucking person and stay for a few days at least. Or I’ll throw up on you.”

Estinien scowled at him, and Aza scowled right back. They both glowered at each other stubbornly for several long minutes before Estinien looked away first. Hah.

“Fine,” he ground out, like Aza was forcing him by knife-point or something, “I’ll stay for a few days.”

Good,” Aza snapped right back, and they both sat there in a tense, angry silence before his stomach let out a pointed gurgle. Oh, right, he didn’t eat dinner last night… he was pretty starved. He pushed aside his petty annoyance, “Ugh, okay, food is needed…”

Estinien stood there stiffly as Aza slowly got off the bed. It was when he had his feet securely under him that Aza realised something important, like… he was stripped of his armour and in just his breeches. He went stiff, heart picking up briefly, before he spotted his armour and weapon stacked up on a chair near the door. Estinien must’ve stripped him off when he was in a drunken coma. Considerate… but unnerving.

“Are you going to be ill?” Estinien asked him flatly, misunderstanding his sudden tension for nausea, “If so, you should run for the ablutions. Gribillont won’t like you messing his floors.”

“No, I’m fine,” Aza said curtly, even if his stomach felt a mite touchy, “Just cold. Anyway, go get us breakfast while I… revive myself.”

Estinien made a face at being ordered about, but he left to obey… he hoped anyway. Aza would hunt him down if he decided to make a break for it to become a hermit out in the woods, stroking his lance and licking trees, or whatever it was he did for the past six months. Aza huffed, annoyed all over again, and marched over to his armour, pulling it on. He had more important things to do anyway, like grovelling at Aymeric’s feet to make him forgive him.

Note to self, never make fun of his poetry, no matter how adorable he looked when embarrassed. Aymeric was very touchy about it (and he might stop writing him it – honestly, Aza really liked getting a letter from him, filled with loving, beautifully crafted poetry… no matter how dorky it was).

Chapter Text

Estinien’s idea of breakfast was bread.

Aza, who had only just resurfaced from his grave, washed and groomed for his impending grovelling, gave him the dullest stare he could muster.

“It’s food,” Estinien said defensively.

“You didn’t even get butter,” Aza muttered, picking the slice of bread up. He squinted a look Gribillont’s way, wondering why on earth he allowed Estinien to do this, but the bartender pointedly avoided looking his way. Did Aza do something last night to make him mad too? He really needed to stop pissing people off.

Resigned, Aza promptly picked the bread apart into tiny little chunks, scattering crumbs everywhere, “So,” he began, “Are you coming with me to watch me prostrate myself at Aymeric’s feet, or are you doing something else?”

Estinien, who wasn’t touching his own bread and was instead frowning at his hands, as if viscerally insulted at Aza’s mauling of his food, sighed, “Will you chastise me if I say I have other things to do?”

Aza looked at him with a smirk, “Depends… will those ‘other things’ be lurking on rooftops, avoiding Aymeric?”

Estinien huffed. That was a yes, then.

“Then you’re coming with me,” Aza decided, popping a piece of bread into his mouth. His stomach still felt unsettled, but he supposed Estinien chose wisely with bland bread. He’d manage it, “We can beg together, wouldn’t that be nice?”

“Hmm…” Estinien was clearly thinking of something inappropriate – Aza had a sixth sense of these things after knowing Aymeric, the super pervert, “I don’t beg.”

Aza scoffed.

Estinien instantly glared, “Something to say?”

“Nope,” Aza said cheerily, “Just got something caught in my throat.”

He let the silence stew between them for a few more mouthfuls of bread, not even squirming at Estinien’s heavy stare (glower, really).

“It’s just…” Aza finally said, his tone sly, “If you’ve had sex with Aymeric, then he’s definitely made you beg at one point.”

Estinien made a low, groaning noise like he was in actual, physical pain, “You remembered that.”

“I remembered it,” Aza confirmed. He never really forgot that conversation, even if he couldn’t exactly remember the words. Estinien fucked Aymeric, how more complicated could that be? “You didn’t go into details though, shame.”

“I thought it’d be inappropriate,” Estinien said a little stiffly, clearly uncomfortable with how the conversation was turning. Aza eyed him, not feeling much sympathy.

“Hmm, really?” Aza brushed his hands clean of crumbs, “Why did you two… break up, anyway?”

“It was mutually agreed that our relationship was inappropriate for our respective positions,” Estinien’s words sounded rehearsed – they probably were, and Aza chewed over that for a moment. So, it was Ishgard’s politics that got in the way, not them realising they were incompatible in any way. That was…

“Yeah, I bet the Lord Commander and the Azure Dragoon weren’t allowed to jump on each other’s dicks,” Aza said blithely, ignoring Estinien’s slight cringe at his crude phrasing, “So, if you had a chance now, since that’s no longer an issue, would you…?”

Estinien straightened up, “If you’re asking what I think you are…” he murmured, low and dangerous.

“Just idle curiosity,” Aza said, resting his chin on an upturned palm, smiling at him, “I’m not threatened by you, Estinien. Not in the slightest. I don’t suspect you of being able to seduce Aymeric behind my back, because we both know he lacks the capacity for that kind of thing. You do, too, I wager.”

Estinien said nothing to that.

“Do you still like him?” Aza asked.

“What’s the point of this?” Estinien growled. He sounded agitated which meant ‘yes’. Ah…

“Jut trying to understand why you buried yourself in the sand for the past half year,” Aza said honestly. “Alphinaud, I can understand not contacting him. He does need to grow into his own out of a looming shadow, but… Aymeric?”

Estinien shifted his weight. Aza waited him out, not letting his stare waver as he started finishing off his bread. His patience won out in the end.

“I thought…” Estinien began, slowly, like he was trying the words out, “That I could be a distraction. As you said, our professional positions are no longer an obstacle to what we had before, but, he now had you. He… deserves, someone like you.”

“Estinien,” Aza said with utmost seriousness, “He deserves someone hell of a lot better than me.”

Estinien gave him a doubtful frown, “What?”

“We’re a right pair,” Aza chuckled, “Me and you. Issues and emotional baggage coming out of our assholes. Clearly, Aymeric has a type.”

Estinien was clearly lost, openly puzzled. Aza didn’t bother to enlighten him. He already said a bit more than he meant to.

“Anyway,” he hurried along, “What I want to know is, do you and Aymeric need to, like, have a sit down, heart to heart talk with me out of the picture? I mean, I’m not an expert on relationships that have ended healthily, because reasons, but…”

“Why’re you so intent on this?” Estinien asked him with open suspicion. “What’s your goal?”

“Healthy communication? Resolving conflicts before they can fester and become problems?” Aza suggested, “Look, I had to talk to Lucia over the course of a month about my emotional problems because of Aymeric, and I’m not letting it go to waste. If I had to force myself through healthy communication, you can too.”

“…Lucia talked to you about your what now?”

“Garlean spy training included a package on identifying and manipulating psychological and emotional issues,” Aza said dryly, “She just… used that, with a bit of a twist. Anyway, we’ve gotten off topic.”

“That topic being…?”

“You. Aymeric. Big talk,” Aza said, breaking it down into small words so Estinien would get the picture easier, “Put to rest any lingering conflicts between the two of you, so you can function like a normal person for once in your life.”

“I do function like a normal person…” Estinien muttered sullenly.

“You hid in the wilderness for six months and lurk on rooftops stalking people,” Aza said flatly, “That’s not normal. People go to jail for that, Estinien.”

Estinien made a vague noise of frustration, but Aza stared him down. He already got a good picture of what was going on here, and he didn’t like it. Yes, there was a slight squirm of uncertain jealousy in his stomach, but it was irrational, and Aza decisively ignored it. He meant it, when he said he wasn’t threatened. Aymeric loved him, and whatever relationship he once had with Estinien was long in the past, even if Estinien was still carrying a torch that even he knew was pointless.

But it was best to nip these potential problems in the bud. Aza wasn’t threatened… but only an idiot left a half-dead enemy at their backs.

“Aymeric won’t appreciate it,” Estinien finally said.

“We talking about the same Aymeric? Because I swear he lives for the uncomfortable, touchy-feely talks,” Aza huffed. Aymeric was not afraid to get stuck right in there, no matter how discomforting the subject matter. Aza was sure there was something wrong with him, somewhere, “Just tell him… whatever. I don’t care. Just get whatever it is settled so Aymeric stops moping about you ignoring him and running away to become a hermit in the woods shagging trees.”

“Ah,” Estinien’s tone turned droll, “I see your plan, now. ‘Stop him moping’, is it? You don’t actually care about me. You just want him cheered up.”

“Estinien, you’re a big boy who can make all the stupid, self-sabotaging decisions he wants,” Aza scoffed, “But when those stupid, self-sabotaging decisions start upsetting my man, then that’s when I get involved. I’m sure you’d do the same if you were in my shoes.”

Estinien lowered his gaze, his mouth twisted in a wry smile, “I would.”

“Great. So,” Aza stood up decisively. After the bread and the talk, he was feeling much better. Still felt like he had a kelpie kicking his head in, but the nausea and dizziness had finally gone, “Let’s go do it then. I’ll soften him up with my begging, then you can ruin the rest of his day with your uncomfortable talk.”

“Didn’t you just say he lived for these talks?” Estinien asked him, standing up as well.

“Oh, did I say ruin? I meant make. Yes, make his day, Estinien.”

Estinien just sighed, but he said no more as Aza decisively led them out of the Forgotten Knight, a man on a mission. Time to get this torch sorted out at long last.

Chapter Text

It was almost disappointingly easy to get back into Aymeric’s good books.

Aza had purred and flirted and batted those eyelashes of his, murmuring that of course he loved the poetry, he was just teasing, please don’t be mad? It was fascinating to watch, to see this powerful predator turn as docile and soft as a kitten beneath Aymeric’s cool stare – but it worked. Aymeric held his annoyance for exactly five minutes underneath Aza’s act, and promptly melted. He really was sweet on this Miqo’te.

The fact, oddly, did not hurt like Estinien thought it would. He mostly felt… relieved. He wasn’t sure what to make of the unexpected emotion.

“You’re a menace,” Aymeric grumbled, but he wasn’t able to hide a smile.

“You’re just no match for my amazing charm,” Aza returned, giving him a wink before glancing over his shoulder, at where Estinien was giving them some semblance of privacy by loitering near the door, “Esty, what’re you doing over there? Come over here.”

“Esty?” Aymeric muttered.

“You know what my name is,” Estinien said as he obediently approached, “Use it.”

“But I like Esty,” Aza said, just smirking when Estinien levelled a glare at him. It was almost as if he thrived on needling him, “Also, you let me call you it last night…”

“Oh?” Aymeric glanced between the two of them, “I suppose I should have been more suspicious, of you two coming in together.”

Estinien almost started – but saw Aymeric’s teasing smile. Oh, of course, his friend wouldn’t jump to such jealous conclusions so quickly.

“Esty kept me company last night,” Aza told him, not even bothering to not make it sound suggestive, “Carried me to bed, made me breakfast…”

“Should I be worried?” Aymeric asked dryly, glancing at Estinien.

“He’s too high-maintenance,” Estinien quipped, settling into this joke now. A queer thing for Aymeric and Aza to make light of, but Aza did say he was unthreatened by any and all romantic competition. It stood to reason that they would find the mere thought of it quaint and amusing. “And he snores.”

“I do not!” Aza huffed, utterly offended, “Lies!”

“Ah, actually…” Aymeric coughed lightly.

Aza turned on him instantly, “For the last time it wasn’t snoring! That- I purred! In my sleep!”

“Snoring…” Estinien muttered to Aymeric, sotto voce, not bothering to hide a smirk when Aza made a noise like an overboiling tea kettle, his fur all fluffed out. It was adorable, really. He didn’t know Miqo’te could fluff up like an offended Chocobo chick.

“Fine!” Aza threw his hands up and did some sort of odd, swooping dance of frustration in the face of their teasing, “Go snigger together, chuckleheads! I don’t have to take this! Good day!”

And in a complete role reversal of last night, Aza stomped out in a full-blown huff – one that the both of them knew to be utterly faked. He did promise to leave them alone to talk, and of course, he chose to do it as dramatically as possible. Estinien watched him leave, then glanced at Aymeric. His friend looked entirely untroubled.

“He wanted us to talk alone, didn’t he?” Aymeric sighed, “He keeps forgetting I can tell when he’s actually annoyed.”

Estinien relaxed. “He was insistent on it, this morning.”

Aymeric looked at him, his eyes heavy-lidded and curious, “I’m surprised you’re still here, Estinien.”

Estinien shifted uncomfortably, pressing his weight into his heels for a brief moment, “Aza was insistent on that too,” he admitted, “Also, he got incredibly drunk. It wouldn’t have been good of me, to simply abandon him.”

Aymeric made a soft ‘hrm’ noise, leaning back in his seat. It creaked quietly from his shifting weight, and his friend rubbed the back of his neck with a grimace. It was fairly early still. Estinien wondered if Aymeric even went home last night, “Thank you, for that. He tends to do stupid things when drunk.”

“He seemed fairly composed last night,” Estinien said – then he remembered Aza’s pointed probing and prodding and his and Aymeric’s past relationship, “If blunt. He’s aware of our… history.”

Aymeric looked a little surprised at that – then concerned, “He is? Hm, I never bothered to hide it but… he didn’t seem overly concerned, did he?”

Estinien snorted, “He made it very clear that he was entirely unthreatened by our past relationship. If anything, he was curious and teasing – oddly determined to ensure we spoke about it, though. Perhaps he wishes to make sure that we have it entirely put to rest.”

Aymeric sighed, “That is…”

“Don’t trouble yourself, Aymeric,” Estinien said. He paused, but then continued decisively, intent on ensuring his friend was entirely unburdened by this; “It is far in the past, and you have Aza now. Whatever we had is just a pointless ‘what-if’ that will never be realised. I have accepted this and expect nothing else.”

Aymeric looked a little unhappy, giving Estinien a look he couldn’t fully decipher – but his friend eventually nodded very slowly, “I’m sorry.”

“Save your apologies, old friend,” Estinien waved his hand dismissively, “I’m not some maiden with a fragile-heart, about to keel over from an unrequited love,” he scoffed at the mere thought, “If anything I’m pleased… at least you chose someone with guts.”

“Guts?” Aymeric’s tone was dry as dust, “That’s your criteria for an acceptable partner for me? They have guts?”

“You need someone to challenge you,” Estinien said, “Temper those foolish, naïve ideas of yours. Kill some dragons for you.”

“We don’t kill dragons anymore, Estinien.”

“Nidhogg’s brood is still slithering about in the wilds,” Estinien rolled his eyes, “I’ve heard the tales.”

“Then perhaps,” Aymeric said lightly, “You can assist us with that? The remnants of Nidhogg’s brood have become increasingly desperate and vicious in the recent weeks. Aza, unfortunately, cannot be everywhere, and has other duties with the Scions. Your lance would be a much-needed reinforcement for our flagging troops.”

It was a trap, Estinien knew instantly. Aymeric would tempt him into helping out ‘unofficially’, and then would try and tie him tighter and tighter to Ishgard. A denial was on the tip of his tongue – he was here briefly, a quick visit to ensure that his friend hadn’t keeled over underneath the crushing pressure of the Republic, but… he did miss home, as painful as it was to be here. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad, to cycle through the old frontiers, to beat back the remains of Nidhogg’s hateful legacy, to help him settle this gut-deep guilt on what he did beneath that shade’s crazed influence.

Aymeric waited him out patiently, his friend’s gaze knowing.

“Perhaps I can… help for a little while,” Estinien said stiffly, “But I won’t be tied here, Aymeric.”

“I know,” Aymeric smiled tiredly, looking down at his desk, “You are free to leave whenever you wish… though, I warn you, Aza may take it as a challenge to hunt you down.”

“He is free to stalk me all he wishes,” Estinien huffed, “I’ll evade him as deftly as before.”

“This being when he tackled you off the roof?” Aymeric asked dryly.

“Hush,” Estinien flicked his fingers at him, “He caught me off-guard then.”

“Hmm, that sounds like an excuse.”

“An excuse?” Estinien straightened up in offence, but he couldn’t fight back a smile at Aymeric’s light teasing, “Aye, perhaps it is. He can be surprisingly quiet, for someone so heavy-footed and… clunky.”

“Yes…” Aymeric seemed troubled for a brief moment, but it was gone before Estinien could question him on it, “His past has given him many skills. Ah, in any case,” he shuffled the papers on his desk, clearly looking for something, “I believe I have starting point for you, if you wish to get to work immediately.”

Estinien narrowed his eyes, but knew better than to press a subject Aymeric was unwilling to talk about, “I’d be amenable to it.”

“Here,” Aymeric finally found a report or something, and held it out, “Falcon’s Nest. This is the worst area… take Aza with you. I was going to give this to him, but it’ll be a good chance for you both to catch up in the way that is most comfortable to you both.”

In battle? Estinien supposed that was true. He was used to fighting at Aza’s side – they were like a well-oiled machine, even if they utilised different martial skills. He found himself actually eager to fight alongside him again – to have that powerful man a steady, unyielding presence at his side, crushing his foes with a decisiveness that would make any warrior swoon. Miqo’te or not, Estinien knew to appreciate strength in all of its forms.

“Very well, I’ll pick him up on the way,” Estinien said, taking the report. He doubted Aza would have gone far, “In the meantime, perhaps you should rest, Aymeric. You’re beginning to look your age.”

Aymeric grimaced at him, “I’m far too busy…”

“Rest,” Estinien said firmly, “The Republic will continue on without you for a few hours, at least.”

Aymeric’s expression said he clearly doubted that, but he did look a little longing at the door, his exhaustion clear in his face, “I suppose a few hours…”

“I’ll inform Lucia on the way out,” Estinien told him, smirking when Aymeric almost cringed, “It’s for your own good.”

“You are terrifyingly alike to Aza,” Aymeric sighed, but it was clear he had given in, “Very well. I’ll rest.”

Estinien nodded, squelching the odd, old urge to lean in and- no, that was far too many years in the past. How odd for that urge to rise up now? He stifled it with ease, turning on his heel and striding out of the office. That talk just stirred up old emotions that should’ve stayed buried, is all. He’ll distract himself with what he knew, and knew well: dragon killing.

Once he found that blasted Miqo’te first.

Chapter Text

Estinien found Aza in the Brume making, of all things, a snowman.

“So much snow collects down here. Seems a bit of a waste not to do anything with it,” Aza said to him as he approached, packing down the snow into the main body of the snowman. It looked a little lopsided and misshapen, but Estinien kept such criticism to himself, eyeing Aza carelessly play in the snow like he was a child, instead of a seasoned warrior in his mid-thirties.

“Aymeric has a mission for us,” he said instead, “Dragon killing near Falcon’s Nest.”

“Oh? He’s partnered me up with you?” Aza looked up from his artwork, looking amused, “That’ll be nostalgic. Hey, remember when I kicked your shit in that vigil, just outside Camp Dragonhead?”

“I remember,” Estinien said through gritted teeth, still a bit sore about his horrendous loss of control during that time – and how, even when he’d been drawing deep from the power of Nidhogg’s Eye, Aza had just swept him aside as if he had been nothing more than a child playing dragoon. It had been humiliating… and humbling.

“Man, that was heavy forewarning we did not pay attention to,” Aza said blithely, finishing the snowman’s body with a decisive ‘pat’ using both hands. He pushed himself to his feet, groaning quietly when his knees clicked like an old man’s, “Oof. Ishgard’s weather does my battered body no favours. I feel fifty.”

Estinien remained stiff, waiting for Aza to say more on that rather unsavoury part of his past – something he still felt shame over – but the Warrior of Light simply dusted himself off and glanced at him, smiling.

“So, ready to slay some dragons?” Aza asked him cheerfully, “Because I could go for a nice work out. Warm these frozen muscles up and get all limbered up for tonight.”

“Tonight?” Estinien asked, relaxing when it was obvious Aza was letting the subject lie for now, “Ah, you mean…”

Aza’s smile turned roguish and he swayed his shapely hips side to side, his tail smoothly curving and swishing with the movement. Estinien was ignorant of what that body language meant, but he could guess with context, “Mmm, exactly. So, we teleporting or going the old-fashioned way of Chocobo?”

“Teleporting,” Estinien said, finding his gaze lingering on Aza’s hips. Despite being well-toned and muscular, he was incredibly curvy for a man. Perhaps it was different for Miqo’te? Aza was the only frame of reference he had, despite his wanderings… “I’m rather eager to test my lance on these remnants of Nidhogg’s vile brood.”

“Test your lance, hm…” Aza looked sly, “How about instead, we turn it into a competition…?”

Estinien found his interest piqued, “Oh? You want us to keep scores?”

“Whoever kills the most dragons it the winner,” Aza said, “We can decide on a forfeit after if you want.”

A rather open-ended forfeit, but Estinien found himself more intrigued than wary. While he knew he could never defeat Aza in a straight fight, he could prove himself the better dragon-slayer. Estinien had been fighting them his whole life, whereas Aza, whilst heavily experienced and adaptable, was more of a jack of all trades than a master when it came to monster slaying. Estinien… was eager to see if he could beat him, “Fine, I accept.”

“Excellent,” Aza purred, tapping his gloved fingers together, “I’ll trust you’ll count honestly, because we won’t have an impartial judge here. I’m trusting you, Esty.”

Estinien scoffed, “As if I would need to exaggerate my kills to defeat you in dragon-slaying.”

“Confident…” Aza’s smile was all teeth and predatory, “Good. I love it when I crush confident men into the dirt. Makes my inner thighs tingle all nice like.”

Aza looked incredibly savage and wild then – Estinien… felt weird about it, in that he recognised mild, attracted interest blossoming as a tight clench of heat in his gut – that he quickly ignored. He had always admired Aza’s defiant arrogance, if only because it was well earned and he wore it incredibly well on that handsome face. It was a physical lust that Estinien was more than capable of ignoring without really thinking about it.

“How lewd of you,” Estinien said instead, smirking down at him, “Whatever would Aymeric say?”

“He’d probably get off on it too, the lil’ pervert,” Aza scoffed, and Estinien had to admit he was right. Aymeric was delightfully yet surprisingly sultry when the mood struck him. It was what made him such a pleasure in private, “But enough talk, let’s hunt some dragons! Get ready to lose.” 

“Hmph. In your dreams.”

 


 

Aza was incredibly distracting.

The way he fought with that blade required him to fling his entire body into each wild swing. One move even required him to fling it overhead with such momentum that his feet actually left the ground when it slammed into the earth, his blade embedding so deep that Aza would have to spend a comical two seconds heaving it out with frustrated grunts. He threw himself around with such wild, careless abandon, that Estinien found his gaze wandering over to him in mild concern.

And interest.

Because such raw strength was also mesmerising to watch, especially when that strength was directed towards Nidhogg’s hateful brood. Aza butchered them. There was no other way to describe it. He just. Butchered them. Not even scales and plates and armour, hardened by centuries and superior evolution, defended them against Aza’s single-minded determination to murder them all.

Aza knew what he wanted to do, and he did it well. Estinien could respect that.

“Twenty-six!” Aza crowed, planting his foot triumphantly on the serpentine neck of an Amphiptere as he struggled to pull his blade free. It looked like it was stuck fast where Aza had just rammed it, point first with sheer, brute strength, through its breastbone as it unwisely reared over him. Gravity had done the rest, and Aza only had to push it slightly to the side to avoid being crushed beneath it. He seemed to find the whole thing amusing, “I’ve won, Esty!”

“Hmph,” Estinien grumbled, pulling his spear free from where he’d rammed it into the base of a dragon’s skull, perched comfortably in the space between its wings. The nest that they had struck, buried deep in the mountains of the highlands, was mostly wiped out now. The few rational dragons had fled at this point, and all that remained were the dead. Unless they discovered another batch of dragons cowering in the shadows, Estinien would have to be content with his twenty-four. Tch, he wouldn’t have scored so low if Aza hadn’t saw fit to throw himself around the battlefield like a crazed rabbit.

“Aw, someone sounds grumpy~” Aza sang, giving up on his weapon to lean on its cross guard instead, grinning over at him. There were blood splattered flecking over the bridge of his nose like freckles, his fanged smile bright in the gloominess of the cave they were in. Estinien watched Aza from the corner of his eye, how the Miqo’te’s shapely body lounged confidently and lazily against his blade, his tail lifted high in the air, slightly curved, his eyes dark and heavy-lidded with contentment. It was a lovely, lovely sight.

Distracting. If he didn’t know any better, he would’ve thought Aza did it on purpose. He wouldn’t be surprised if he deployed cheating tactics like that.

“No, I’m happy for you,” Estinien said in a total deadpan, nimbly jumping off his dragon-corpse, “Congratulations on your win.”

“Somehow, that sounds so incredibly insincere…” Aza murmured, lifting a hand to wipe his face. The blood freckles smeared, leaving small streaks of red, slowly dulling into a rusty brown, over the bridge of his nose and his cheeks, “Aw, I got blood on me.”

“It’s a lost cause,” Estinien told him, his gaze drifting down to the front of Aza’s breastplate. He caught the full spray of the Amphiptere’s arterial spray when its chest was caved in. Aza was lucky not to have his entire face coated in the stuff, thinking on it, “You look like you’ve been swimming in blood… are you always this messy?”

“Hey, you can’t say anything, Mister ‘I Walked Around Coated In Nidhogg’s Blood For A Fucking Week’,” Aza huffed, though he did straighten up to look down at himself, “Well, at least I’m fairly sure I don’t have any ancestors who’ve eaten Dragon Eyes to trigger some kind of transformation. Think I swallowed a bit of it.”

Estinien wrinkled his nose, “Disgusting.”

“Again, you can’t say shit.”

Estinien scoffed audibly, pleased when Aza looked suitably annoyed, and walked away. The cave was large and spacious, piled high with the corpses of the brood that had cowered here, and peeked into various nooks and crannies, to make sure there weren’t any pups lurking in them, as Aza tried to free his blade with loud grunts and curses. He could growl surprisingly deep.

Estinien had completed his entire circuit of the cave by the time Aza was done, and the Miqo’te rested his bloody blade on his shoulder, puffing at his fringe flopping into his eyes. His hair was a mess, half-undone from his tight braid, framing his face in a curtain of light brown and pale blond. Combined with his bloody appearance, he looked like a crazed heretic that had just escaped a trial by combat, especially with that shit-eating grin.

“So, ready to go back?” Aza asked him cheerfully.

“Mm, we’ve chased away whatever remained of this nest,” Estinien admitted, feeling something settled in him at the thought. Little by little, Nidhogg’s shadow was being cut away from Ishgard. While, ultimately, Estinien could agree that Ishgard had brought its ill fate upon itself with King Thordan’s betrayal, after a thousand years… well, there came a point when vengeance became insanity, something he was now horribly, uncomfortably aware and familiar with.

“Feels good, don’t it?” Aza asked him, his gaze almost too knowing as he watched him, “Killing something that hurt you once.”

Estinien looked at him, but Aza’s expression was unreadable, despite his smile. “It isn’t simple vengeance that drives me,” he told him, quietly, worried that that was what Aza was driving at.

“No, but vindication is,” Aza hummed, “The honest desire to break something that hurt you, to regain some power of it and say ‘I am the one in control now’… mmhm, those are normal feelings and urges to have.”

Estinien paused for a moment, “…is this what Lucia told you during your ‘talks’?”

Aza winked at him, “Maybe,” he quickly sobered, however, “But I mean it. I know you stay away from Ishgard because you feel ashamed of what happened with Nidhogg. If killing the remains of his brood help you come to terms with that, so you can stay here without feeling like crawling out of your skin, then, I’m just saying, I’m ready to help you out whenever I can. I’ll kill a million dragons with you, if you need it.”

Estinien went still, this conversation cutting too deeply into topics he Did Not Want To Discuss, “…perhaps, we should head back now,” he said emotionlessly, unable to look Aza in the face and stared at the blank, gormless stare of the dead Amphiptere instead. It looked like had died before it realised.

Aza sighed, like he wanted to say more – or press harder – but mercifully dropped the topic, “Yeah, Aymeric’s probably wondering if we’ve been eaten at this point. Where’re you staying tonight?”

The subject change almost made him stumble, but Estinien shoved the sharp-edged emotions down, hard, and muttered, “The Forgotten Knight.”

“Hm, really? Well…” Aza frowned at him, “Don’t you want to stay in Aymeric’s? Twelve knows he has the room for it.” And probably make sure Estinien didn’t make a break for it when their backs were turned.

“And listen to you two fuck all night?” Estinien said bluntly, rolling his eyes for extra effect, “I think I’ll spare myself that torture.”

“Torture? Pfft, you’d enjoy it,” Aza leered at him, “But your loss, I suppose.”

Yes, his loss. Truth was, Estinien didn’t want to stir these old, buried feelings any further. But now that Aza mentioned it – his mind traitorously imagined listening to these two mating- no, let’s- quickly bury that mental image. His armour really wouldn’t hide any embarrassing… signs of…

A click pulled him out of his half-mortified, half-sexy thoughts, and he looked up to see Aza sheathing his weapon in its magnetic sheath, “Let’s go,” Aza yawned, covering his mouth as he blindly marched forward, his eyes squeezed shut so hard tears sprung in the corners, “Mmmn…ngh, tired. Gonna nap before… sleepin’ with Aymeric.”

Estinien fell in step with him, “You really are fifty,” he muttered to him, smirking when Aza shot him an irritated look.

“Shut up. Least my hair isn’t grey like you.”

“It’s silver.”

“Grey.”

Silver.”

“Greeeey~”

“It’s silver you- ow! Did you just- pull my hair?”

“Well, it was just fluttering everywhere, all majestic and drama- OW! You just pulled my hair! Asshole!”

Hmph, well, it was ‘just fluttering everywhere’-”

“Oh, it is on, Esty!”

And as they just cleared the cave, stepping out into the biting cold, snowy air of the Coerthas Highlands, Aza let out a battle-cry that echoed in the small valley they were in, and promptly tackled Estinien right into a snowdrift. Now that was distracting. He had to think of every boring sermon he had ever sat through, grappling with a laughing Aza, to make sure his thoughts didn’t wander with the small, powerful body moving against his own.

If thinking old, wistful thoughts about an old flame was bad… thinking of keen, lustful thoughts about his old flame’s current partner was definitely not good at all.

Too bad Aza made it very difficult to think otherwise. He was just so incredibly distracting.

Chapter Text

Peaceful nights were rare for Aymeric.

Those were the nights where he could simply sprawl in bed without a care or worry that he needed to be somewhere soon, or had to meet someone, or prepare a speech or a petition or anything. He could just relax, half-dozing and half-curled around his partner, his mind pleasantly empty of his worries while Aza talked at him about his various adventures, or his current project, or even his stories about the Beast Tribes (those were Aymeric’s favourite). Those were lovely nights… but rare. So very rare.

It made it all the sweeter when he got to enjoy them though… like tonight.

“And then Esty tried to drown me in a half-frozen puddle,” Aza was describing his ‘day out’, as he called it, with Estinien. Aymeric was glad they were getting along, “But then I managed to punch him in the crotch and he made the most high pitched squeak I had ever heard, it was so funny, Aymeric.”

“Mm…” Aymeric hummed, knowing he’ll probably be hearing Estinien’s side of this altercation – with many differences that would have Aza be the one languishing in humiliating pain – and nuzzled closer against his partner’s side.

“He’s in a bit of a mood with me now,” Aza sighed, slouched against the headboard of the bed as he deftly continued his knitting. It was his newest ‘project’, and one that Aza seemed to take to quite happily. Aymeric didn’t really know much about knitting, but Aza’s results looked good even to his untrained eye, “Got all huffy like a brooding Chocobo. I dumped him in the Forgotten Knight to cool off for tonight.”

“Did you invite him here…?” Aymeric asked sleepily, remembering that he had meant to extend that invitation at some point today. It completely slipped his mind.

“Yeah, he said he didn’t want to listen to us fuck,” Aza said, his voice accompanied by the soothing ‘klack klack’ of his knitting needles, “Joke’s on him, because now he gets to listen to strangers fuck. The walls are pretty thin in the Forgotten Knight.”

Aymeric remained quiet. Most likely Estinien, despite his words earlier that day, probably didn’t want it to be rubbed in his face what he had lost. He couldn’t help but feel guilty, that they never really got proper closure over their relationship before Aymeric became helplessly charmed and entranced by Aza. But what was there to say? Estinien seemed determined to have it stay buried in the past, and Aymeric wasn’t sure what his own personal feelings were on the matter. Perhaps it was best to let it lie?

“Which reminds me…” Aza continued, taking Aymeric’s silence in stride, “How did your talk go with Esty? You settle things?”

“Hm?”

“Settle things. About your past relationship?”

Ah. “Hm, in a… manner of speaking…” Aymeric mumbled evasively, hearing Aza stop his knitting.

“In a manner of speaking?” Aza asked him pointedly, before heaving a sigh, “You didn’t, did you?”

Aymeric groaned quietly, realising that he was going to have to be more awake than ‘half-asleep’, and reluctantly rolled onto his back. He squinted his eyes open, seeing Aza peer down at him without much expression, his knitting project currently resting in his lap. Aymeric guessed he was knitting a scarf, one in a lovely deep blue colour.

“Estinien… said he wished for it to remain in the past,” Aymeric half-yawned, hiding his mouth behind his hand, “Mm. Didn’t wish to discuss it more than that.”

“What a cowardly Kobold,” Aza grumbled, looking vexed, “I told him… whatever,” he picked up his knitting again, resuming its progress with the gentle ‘klack klack’ of needles, “He still carries a torch for you, y’know.”

Aymeric wasn’t quite sure what to do with this information, “…mm?”

“Yeah, but seems determined to dramatically languish in silence, like one of those brooding, dour romantic heroes you Ishgardians are so keen on.”

“Byronic hero.”

“What?”

“They’re called Byronic heroes,” Aymeric said tiredly, having to smother a smile when Aza predictably scoffed.

“They could be called Fuckhands McMike heroes for all I care,” Aza harrumphed, “But Esty’s been brooding for too long. He needs to get out there, doing… things.”

“He is getting out there, doing things,” Aymeric pointed out, letting his eyes slip closed again, “And we lost him for six months.”

“Oh, you know what I mean!” Aza stopped his knitting again, and judging by the rustle of movement, had thrown his hands up in the air, “Get fucked, is what I mean! He needs a good, long fucking, make him relaxed and purring. Get that lance out of his asshole, because it clearly isn’t doing a good job up there.”

Aymeric opened his eyes at that. Stared at Aza.

“What?” Aza asked defensively when Aymeric continued to stare, “Don’t give me that look. You’ve slept with the man, you know I’m right.”

Well, yes, Aymeric couldn’t argue with that. Estinien became a lot more agreeable and playful when his brains had been thoroughly fucked out. It was just… “Are you saying you want to matchmake Estinien?”

“Matchmake sounds so… meddlesome,” Aza grumbled, “But yes, that’s exactly what I want to do.”

Aymeric felt a bit… something. He wasn’t sure what. Estinien had always been intense in everything he did, and relationships were no exception. To find someone who would temper and compliment that intense focus would be difficult… they needed someone who, well, would challenge him, wouldn’t take any of his shit when he was being an idiot like, well, himself or Aza, honestly. Aymeric drew up a shortlist of who was even compatible, and grimaced. He could only really think Lucia, and he knew she wasn’t interested in the slightest in Estinien.

“…well, good luck with that,” he said after a long pause.

“You’re helping me,” Aza told him, his tone brooking no argument, “You know him best, so you can help pick out a potential partner.”

“I am not putting my name to this disaster in the making.”

Excuse me? Disaster? This’ll go fantastic.”

“Fantastically wrong.”

Aza levelled a very threatening knitting needle at his nose, “Aymeric, my beautiful partner, the love of my life, the very light of my existence, your lack of faith hurts.”

“Hmm, does it?”

“Deeply,” Aza retracted his knitting needle – and set the whole project aside on the bedside table. Clear of any distractions, he promptly leaned over him, his well-toned, muscular body pressing up against him, almost nose to nose, “It’ll go fine,” he purred to him, his fingers brushing along the curve of his jaw, “Trust me?”

“I know better than to trust you,” Aymeric murmured back, playfully, and chuckled when Aza just leaned in to kiss him, biting lightly at his bottom lip, “Mm, see… seducing me, mn, won’t… work…” 

“Hm,” Aza’s eyes glittered at the challenge, pulling away to smirk down at him with full, sultry confidence, “We’ll see, handsome~”

 


 

The embarrassing truth was, seduction tactics always worked on Aymeric. He caved within ten minutes.

 


 

Estinien dithered for several long minutes at Aymeric’s door.

The sun had just crested the horizon, splashing the sky with streaks of pinkish gold, and Ishgard was slowly stirring awake. The cold was biting this time of year, making the morning traffic even more sluggish than usual, and Estinien wasn’t sure if Aymeric would even be awake yet. This was before when he’d be at work during the time of the Theocracy, and now, when he had a young, fit and sinfully handsome Miqo’te sharing his bed? It was a miracle he even left his home, honestly.

He felt like an intruder at times. He had seen it, how well Aza and Aymeric meshed together, how… lovey-dovey they could be. Estinien was jealous of it – was old and wise enough to admit it to himself and simply accept it – but there was also something heartwarming too. He loved seeing Aymeric finally achieve something good and precious in his life, and Aza was decent people. If Estinien had to accept anyone claiming Aymeric’s heart after himself, at least it was a man strong enough to slay Nidhogg and still have halfway decent morals.

He could just slip away now, he knew. He could leave for Ala Mhigo again, roam its wilderness – perhaps pay a visit to that Miqo’te tribe and try to really understand Aza by understanding his people. But, he knew, deep in his gut, that Aza would simply march after him and drag him back by his ear. He was such a pain, but…

Estinien shook his head, annoyed at his dithering, and knocked decisively on the door.

He waited – he waited for two minutes, and just as he decided that Aymeric was either asleep, busy or already at work, the door opened.

Aza, dressed in nothing but a pair of too big briefs hugging precariously low on his hips, leaned groggily against the frame of the door and blinked at him.

Estinien blinked back, his brain going mercifully blank.

Aza’s body was a patchwork of thick, ropey scars and thin, deliberate ones. Many of them criss-crossed into a messy mesh, following the curves of his well-toned, shapely body. His skin was sun-kissed, dark, and his hair was an unbound mess that fell about his shoulders in thick waves. There were bruises along the curve of his neck, over his collarbone, his chest even – Gods, Aymeric, you dog – his inner thighs- and then Estinien realised his gaze had dropped far too low and quickly snapped it back up to Aza’s half-asleep face.

“Esty?” Aza slurred, still too asleep to really notice Estinien’s too close examination, “You’re here early.”

“It’s after dawn,” Estinien pointed out, his voice a little rougher than he liked, “Most people are awake.”

“Most people didn’t get rawed last night,” Aza muttered to himself, smothering a yawn behind his hand, “Mmnngh, well, come in, I guess… Aymeric’s already gone to work.”

Estinien stepped in after Aza, his gaze automatically dropping to his rump when the Miqo’te’s tail flicked too fast, drawing his attention. Aza walked with an eye-drawing sway to his hips, his tail swishing, and he led him to the kitchen.

“There’s no need to host me,” Estinien said stiffly, the intruder-feeling intensifying. He remembered when he would be in Aza’s shoes, and the feeling of being on the other side made him feel… weird, “Go back to bed. I can tend to myself.”

“Can’t sleep when people walk about the house,” Aza admitted, perching himself on the edge of the kitchen counter – in a way that would have the late Lord de Borel probably have kittens over. Aza leaned his elbows on his knees, looking at Estinien with heavy-lidded eyes from beneath his dark eyelashes. He was smiling at him, “You feelin’ lonely, Esty?”

“Lonely?” Estinien scoffed, though Aza’s words had struck too close to home, “Perish the thought.”

“Hmm…” Aza drew out the noise in a low, rumbling purr, “S’okay if you are.”

Estinien said nothing, letting the silence speak for him, and turned to stare at the wall instead. Aza’s gaze felt like a physical weight, but after a tense pause, the Miqo’te moved on.

“I’m pretty much falling asleep here,” Aza admitted, “So… you want something, you can make it, right?”

“You’re a terrible host,” Estinien told him, but moved to make himself something anyway. He knew his way around Aymeric’s kitchen, even after all these years, and it showed. Aza just watched him, looking amused as if thinking about some private joke Estinien wasn’t privy to.

“I just like promoting independence in people,” Aza murmured, his voice husky, “Who do you like more, Esty? Girls or guys?”

Estinien almost dropped a teacup he had retrieved from the cabinet on his toes, “…what.”

“Girls or guys? Pick.”

Estinien watched him warily from the corner of his eye, but Aza was still watching him keenly, cataloguing his reactions. What was he…? “…men, if I must pick.”

“Hmm… interesting…” Aza murmured, “Okay.”

“Dare I ask why?” Estinien asked him, even if he had an awful, terrible suspicion as to why forming in his sinking gut.

“Just curious,” Aza smiled blithely at him, and hopped off the kitchen counter, “I’ll be back in a bit. Just pulling on some clothes.”

And then the Miqo’te wandered off. Estinien allowed himself to watch him go, focused on the swishing movements of Aza’s tail, the sway of his shapely hips, the curve of his well-toned rump, until he walked out of sight. Estinien was tempted to fill the teacup with cold water and dump it over his head.

Too damn distracting… lonely. Yes, Aza was right. Estinien was lonely… and horny, Halone damn it. He hadn’t allowed himself pleasure of flesh in far too long, if he was beginning to lust after both an old flame and that old flame’s partner. Perhaps he should go along with Aza’s terrible idea of matchmaking (because what else could he ask that for??). Burn off some pent up frustrations, lay these dangerous thoughts to rest… and then flee to the deepest, densest woodblock he could find.

A wonderful plan. Estinien still filled the teacup with cold water though, just in case.

Chapter Text

Estinien had gotten his thoughts firmly back under control by the time Aza returned, fully dressed and decent.

He looked different though. Instead of being armed to the teeth in his usual armour, looking primed and ready to stab anyone who so much as squinted at him wrong, he was dressed in a rather form-fitting black gambison that really left nothing to the imagination, and a pair of equally form-fitting, dark trousers – probably leather – finished off with steel-capped boots. Even his hair was just pulled back into a messy ponytail, instead of its tight braid. It was so bizarrely casual that Estinien could only stare at him.

“What?” Aza asked a mite defensively, when the silence between them dragged for a few seconds too long, “Something on my face?”

Estinien shook himself out of his stupor, trying not to comment on the fact that there was something on his face – most notably make up. He didn’t know if he never realised before, or if Aza usually kept it light, but the Miqo’te’s almond shaped eyes were highlighted by a touch of dark eyeshadow and eyeliner, accentuating his thick eyelashes. It was all very provocative and lovely and fuck Estinien should have kept the cup of cold water.

“I’m just… surprised,” he managed to say a bit stupidly, “There’s no breastplate.”

Aza looked down, at his chest, then back up at Estinien, squinting at him as if he thought he was a particularly dim-witted child, “Today’s a casual day.”

“A casual day.”

“I’m familiar enough with Aymeric’s home to consider it a safe space,” Aza told him plainly, “And Lucia suggested that I try to expand that to other parts of Ishgard too. So. Casual days.”

Estinien nodded slowly, even if he only half-understood. He guessed Aza challenged himself to days where he walked around without his armour to relieve him of his need to wear it constantly? Thinking about it, he never actually saw Aza anything less than armed to the teeth before today…

“And which parts of Ishgard are we visiting today?” he asked.

“Glad you asked!” Aza said cheerfully, clapping his hands together, “We’re not going to bother Aymeric this morning – he’s busy trying not to fistfight the entire House of Lords – so today we’re going to socialise.”

Estinien felt a shudder crawl down his spine at that dreaded words, “I think I’d rather watch Aymeric fight the House of Lords.”

“We all would rather watch Aymeric fight the House of Lords,” Aza said grudgingly, “But we’re not allowed. Look, I’m not asking you to host a dinner party or anything. Just join me at the Forgotten Knight for a few hours, meet a few people, relax. It’ll be fine.”

It sounded like anathema to Estinien, who very much liked his solitude, but Aza was looking at him with a somewhat sulky looking pout and it was… he found his gaze lingering on the Miqo’te’s bottom lip, plump and very… biteable. He wondered how it would be like to kiss him. Would he be sweet, or harsh?

“…very well,” he muttered, tearing his gaze away to the wall, “For a few hours.”

Aza instantly brightened, “Awesome. Alright, let’s go now then. I told Bluebird to meet us there with a few lads.”

The suitors, no doubt, Estinien thought wryly. Well, perhaps if one of them were attractive enough, he could try and sate this lust with them. Otherwise, at this rate he won’t be able to look Aza in the face without fantasising on how he wanted to kiss him, to fuck him senseless, to see how he looked and how he sounded when pushed to the very brink of pleasure. No, he needed to put a stop to those thoughts soon.

“You’re paying for my drinks,” Estinien told him as they left Aymeric’s kitchen, towards the front door.

“I’ll pay for one drink.”

“All of them otherwise I walk.” 

“Ugh, fine…”

 


 

Bluebird leaned back in her seat, her feet propped up on the table as she picked underneath her fingernails with a thin knife. She had hustled here at full speed when Aza had pinged her on the linkshell that morning, eager to get involved in this terrible disaster in the making, and was keenly watching the door to the Forgotten Knight with a hint of a smirk on her pale lips.

Beside her, Felyx, the FC’s resident Omnicrafter, muffled a yawn behind his hand, slumped over the table and trying not to nod off to sleep into his untouched pint of ale.

“Stop yawning,” Bluebird chided, “It’s unattractive.”

“You didn’t just pull an all-nighter,” Felyx grumbled, forcing himself to sit upright. Even when dead on his feet, he was devastatingly gorgeous. He was a dark-haired Keeper, with dark, amber eyes, freckles and a body that Aza frequently proclaimed his envy over. He was also a notorious flirt and a lovely bedmate, which both Bluebird and Aza knew from first hand experience. He’d be perfect to fling Estinien’s way to charm him for a few nights.

If Estinien took the bait.

“Well, get ready to pull another one if this goes well,” Bluebird told him, “You know how Elezens are like.”

“Mm, I know,” Felyx smothered another yawn, then scraped his fingers through his short, dark hair, ruffling it behind his ears, “Insatiable creatures. Is he handsome?”

“Yeah, I’d say he is,” Bluebird said, “Not Aymeric levels, because that man is a God in the looks department, but he's easy on the eyes.”

“Ah good,” Felyx smiled wryly, “I mean, I would’ve slept with him anyway, but it’s easier if they’re lovely to look at.”

“Here’s to hoping he’ll be open to it,” Bluebird sighed, “Aza says he’s still carrying a torch for Aymeric, y’know.”

“Ah?” Felyx tapped his bottom lip with a slim finger, “Oh, so I’m trying to seduce him from panting after Aymeric, am I?”

“Nah, I think you’re just gonna, I don’t know, fuck his brains out?” Bluebird, honestly, wasn’t all that sure what Aza hoped to achieve, hence her excitement for this to go tragically wrong. From what she gleaned from Aza’s half-asleep, confusing rambling over the linkpearl, he wanted Estinien to ‘get that lance out of his ass’ and ‘get some good, deep, thorough loving’ so he ‘can get out there and do stuff that isn’t sitting in the woods licking trees’. She had no clue how getting fucked was going to stop Estinien from wandering back into the wilderness to be a hermit, but who was she to question the great wisdom of her FC leader?

Felyx was eyeing her in that dead-eyed, blank way of his that said he was unimpressed with the situation, “…is this to fulfil Aza’s voyeurism fetish?”

“It might be,” Bluebird shrugged, “Or maybe Aymeric’s? Those two have really weird tastes.”

“Really? I thought they’re fairly tame,” Felyx scratched behind his ear, looking amused, “Or, Aza’s fairly tame, at least. I think he steers clear of some of the really freaky stuff because of his, ah. You know.”

“I thought that was just with bondage?” Bluebird asked, well aware that Aza hated being restrained during sex. He always had to have his hands and legs free, had to know that at any point he could stop if he wanted, had to trust his partner to stop if he asked, to give him the room to move away. With bondage, even with safe words, Aza hated it. He wouldn’t even try it, there mere concept of it enough to make him cringe.

“Well, yeah, but everything else he’s fairly tame,” Felyx said, “I think the very limits of his tolerance is threesomes. Back in the day, you know, before we moved operations to Eorzea… I think just after leadership changed hands? I managed to coax him into bed with me and Silvana.”

Oh?” Bluebird gave Felyx’s full attention at that, unaware of that juicy bit of gossip, “He never told me this!”

“It was very… tentative,” Felyx said vaguely. That was the good thing about him – he spoke about his exploits, but never gave dirty details. Bluebird felt mildly disappointed but supposed that she could just pester Aza later for them. He’ll tell her them after much huffing and whining, “This was when he was still skittish with sex.”

“Oh, you mean…” Bluebird considered this, “That was pretty bold of him.”

“You know how Aza’s like. He challenges things that fear him by bull-charging into the deep end,” Felyx said wryly, “It was fun, though. A lot of time was spent getting him relaxed, and you know how Silvana is. She’s really comforting in intimate settings. We all enjoyed it, so it was all good.”

“But I don’t think he’ll be doing threesomes anytime soon,” Bluebird pointed out with a quiet sigh, “What with Aymeric and all.”

“Good for him, really,” Felyx said sincerely, “I always felt he needed a steady, reliable partner that he could trust. I mean, me and him, we had trust, but it was all friendly, y’know?”

“Yeah.”

“Those two are practically married,” Felyx continued with a grin, looking genuinely happy for his friend, “It’s adorable. I feel myself melt into a puddle of happiness whenever I watch those two.”

“I feel like puking rainbows,” Bluebird drawled, but it she couldn’t hide her pleased smile, “Well, whatever. It’s about time Aza had something good in his life, I guess.”

Felyx opened his mouth to reply, but stopped, his gaze caught on the Forgotten Knight’s doors. Bluebird followed his gaze, spotting Aza swaggering through the doors with Estinien at his side, apparently deep in conversation with him, judging by how he was gesturing enthusiastically.

“Hm…” Felyx eyed the tall Elezen at Aza’s side contemplatively, “He looks nice. Seems a little tense though.”

“That is where you come in,” Bluebird said, dropping her feet off the table and straightening up. She caught Aza’s attention by lifting her hand, smiling when Aza directed a course straight for them, Estinien lagging half a step behind with an expression of reluctance, “Be charming.”

“I’m always charming,” Felyx huffed, but hitched up a pleasant, beautiful smile, “Well, here we go.”

“Good luck,” Bluebird whispered to him, before directing to Aza, now within earshot, “Hey, loser, how’s life?”

“Worse now that I’ve seen your ugly face,” Aza shot back with a grin.

And so it began: the matchmaking between Estinien and Suitor #1: Felyx.

Chapter Text

Miraculously, Estinien wasn’t a social embarrassment.

Aza had been expecting Felyx to spend a good hour or so thawing the prickly dragoon into some semblance of civility by using a combination of charm, stubbornness and just plain seduction. Instead Estinien had defied all expectations and had been, well, not friendly because that’d be freaky, but he wasn’t sulking or being overly curt. In fact, him and Felyx were chatting (read: a passionate yet civil(ish) argument) about Ishgardian steel, and how to combat the weight/density ratio issues to ensure agility whilst maintaining protection. Aza didn’t even know Estinien was that well-versed in blacksmithing to have such a technical conversation with an experienced crafter.

He frowned.

“What’s that face for?” Bluebird muttered next to him, “They’re getting along like you wanted.”

“It’s just…” Aza began slowly, unsure on how to verbalise the weird squirmy feeling in his belly. He just felt kind of put out. Felyx limboed under Estinien’s guard so easily and it was mildly annoying. It took an entire trip to the Dravanian Forelands and yelling at Hraesvelgr for Aza to get to that point. Stupid, charming Felyx… “It feels too easy.”

Bluebird rolled her eyes, “You sound like you wanted it to go wrong.”

Certainly not! Aza might do many questionable things for his own amusement, but he wouldn’t set Estinien or Felyx up to fail like that, “Well, no, I just thought-”

“That Felyx needed to work at it?” Bluebird finished for him smugly, “Aw, is lil’ Aza jealous that Esty liked Felyx faster than you?”

Aza glowered at her, silently fuming because, yes he was, but like fuck he’d ever admit that! He pointedly turned away from her and her sudden burst of obnoxiously loud laughter, flicking his tail rudely in her direction. Estinien glanced over at the noise, a sudden frown pulling at his mouth as he slanted a rather sharp look in Bluebird’s direction.

“Is she picking on you again, Aza?” Felyx asked playfully, easily rolling with Estinien’s diverted attention, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to abandon you to her tender mercies.”

“Bluebird always picks on me,” Aza complained pettily, slumping forwards on the table with exaggerated dramatics and jutting his bottom lip out in a pathetic pout, “Abuses me in fact. She’s a terrible big sister.”

Terrible- oi, you little shit,” Bluebird scowled, “I’m the best fucking sister you’ve ever had!”

“Sister?” Estinien asked, sounding genuinely startled, and with a swooping lurch low in his belly, Aza realised he never told Estinien that Bluebird was family. Shit. “But you’re…”

“He’s adopted, obviously,” Bluebird said in the bluntest way possible, ignoring Aza’s half-panicked, alarmed attempts to communicate with her via desperate eyebrow waggling, “My Mom kidnapped him when he was a kid ‘cuz his life was shit, and I’ve been stuck with him ever since.”

Felyx muttered something under his breath as Estinien slowly looked from Bluebird to Aza then back again, his expression blanking into something coolly unreadable. Aza felt his face go hot, abruptly and keenly mortified – Bluebird tended to blurt uncomfortable things out without thinking, but that made him sound kind of – urgh, he could almost see him drop a few pegs in Estinien’s respect-o-metre.

“Stop telling people that!” he snapped, elbowing her hard enough that she almost toppled out of her seat and then said quickly to Estinien, “She’s only kidding about the kidnapping part, um. It’s a long story. Ignore her.”

Ow,” Bluebird grumbled, rubbing her ribs, “But it’s tru- OW!”

“Oops,” Aza said with false sweetness, grinding his heel right into his sister’s toes and grinning at her furious snarl of pain, “My foot slipped. Sorry.”

“Guys,” Felyx tried.

Slipped,” Bluebird growled, and promptly snatched up her flagon of ale, “I’ll show you slipped.”

“Shit. I’d duck if I were you,” Felyx sighed, already starting to take shelter behind the table. Estinien was a little too slow to follow his lead, making the mistake of looking at the crafter questioningly and not at the developing situation at hand.  

Because Bluebird threw her flagon right at Aza.

Aza, who without thinking, knocked it aside before he got a faceful of weak, shitty ale.

The flagon that sailed wildly in the air, splattering its contents all over the table and Estinien, before it bounced wildly off the front of the dragoon’s breastplate and right off the table to land with a too-loud clatter on the floor.

Everything comically froze.

Estinien sat there, ramrod straight and utterly still, ale dripping from the sharp angles of his face and the long locks of his hair, plastered against his cheeks. His flat, cold stare shifted from the flagon now resting innocently on the floor to Aza and Bluebird, a muscle in his jaw visibly twitching. One could almost feel the killing intent radiate off him as Estinien planted his hands on the edge of the table, slowly rising to his feet-

“CHEESE IT!” Bluebird shrieked, already bolting and leaving her brother in the dust.

“Um, uh, I, uh,” Aza spluttered as Estinien loomed because, oh wow, he was tall, and terrifying, and very attractive, somehow, and suddenly he was getting flashbacks to Nidstinien, dark and terrible and very powerful and Aza honestly did not know what his stomach was doing right now, but it was definitely confusing and medically unhealthy.

Aza,” Estinien growled, at a very deep pitch that had all of Aza’s hair (and fur) standing on end.

I’msosorryI’vgottagobye!” he yelped, leaping to his feet so fast he actually fell down, his chair flying away from him in his mad scramble. He somehow managed to get to his feet and chased after his sister without looking back, abandoning Felyx with a coldly furious Estinien.

He’ll always remember you fondly, Felyx!


The safest place to hide from a furious Estinien was, of course, underneath Aymeric’s desk.

“People are going to assume you’re doing filthy things under there if they see you,” Aymeric said conversationally as Aza cowered at his feet, not even bothering to look away from the paperwork he was diligently attending to, “Not that I mind, but I am losing feeling in my toes with you sitting on them.”

“I’m hiding from mortal peril,” Aza grumbled into Aymeric’s knee, unashamedly hugging his partner’s leg and, yes, sitting on his feet. Look, the floor was fucking freezing, because for some reason Aymeric refused to get a rug in here. It was only right his partner sacrificed his toes for Aza’s comfort in that case. He brought it upon himself, “I could die and you don’t even care.”

“I care if said ‘mortal peril’ barges in here and interrupts my work,” Aymeric said, but he did put his pen down and lean back in his chair to look down at him. He looked far too amused for Aza’s liking, but he instantly forgave him when his partner scratched behind his ears just the way he liked it.

“I assume the blind date didn’t go well?” Aymeric asked with deceptive mildness, because he was a fucking shit.

“It went well,” Aza said sulkily, because it did – was. Had been going well, “He was kind of, uh, okayish with Felyx. They hit it off, I think.”

“Who?”

Oh, right. Aza vowed they would never meet because of Felyx’s irresistible looks and better personality, “Uh. No one. He hit it off with no one. Anyways, Bluebird fucked it up by throwing ale at Estinien. So, he got all mad and probably stormed off in a huff.”

Bluebird did this, hm?” Aymeric drawled.

“Yes,” Aza said firmly, “It’s all her fault.”

The door chose that moment to fly open, Knight Oseux’s timid protestations going ignored as Estinien stalked in like a very angry big cat looking to tear apart some unfortunate gazelle. The door handle bounced off the wall with a sickening crack, and Aza barely suppressed a startled squeak from his hiding spot.

“I know he’s here,” was Estinien’s flat greeting.

“Estinien,” Aymeric said, “There is a thing called ‘knocking’. I know you have been isolated from polite society for a while now, but-”

Estinien made a very rude noise.

“Hm,” Aymeric tutted, “I think someone needs to relearn some manners.”

“Aym, that sounds like a sexy come on,” Aza couldn’t help but mutter, only to wince at his mistake.

There was a bit of a pause, then Estinien said, a little awkwardly, “Am I interrupting…”

“Unfortunately, no,” Aymeric sighed, then because he was evil, he scooted his chair back with an awful screech and dislodged Aza from his semi-comfortable perch on his toes, “Come on, Aza. Up you get.”

Aza whined and grumbled, but he reluctantly crawled out from under the desk but made sure to linger close to Aymeric’s side. The smell of ale instantly hit his nose, and his stomach gave a wobbly twist of guilt. The alcohol had dried at this point, but Estinien’s hair looked a bit greasy and oily from where it had dried unattractively.

Estinien also looked grumpy – not murderously grumpy, thankfully, but he did give Aza a bit of a narrowed, squinty glower. Aza relaxed, relieved that he wasn’t having to dodge a well-deserved beating from the man. He was also relieved to find that the confusing hot belly-clenching feeling at seeing a glowering, furious Estinien looming over him had gone too. That had been weird.

“Your sister,” Estinien emphasised the word, “Gave me the slip.”

“Yeah, she’s good at avoiding punishment,” Aza sighed, then, because he did feel bad about it; “Sorry about throwing ale over you.”

“It’s fine,” Estinien said shortly, which meant he was still angry about it but was unwilling to risk Aymeric’s ire to beat him up about it right now, so would most likely jump him later and feed him his own kidneys. Aza was getting very good at Estinienese, “Let us say you owe me one, and leave it at that.”

Aza felt a flutter of wariness at that, before he dismissed it. Estinien was a friend, albeit a prickly one, so Aza was sure he wouldn’t ask anything too bad of him – unless it was asking him to leave him the fuck alone, then Aza was reneging on that, “Sure.”

“Huh,” Aymeric said in open amazement, “You solved the issue like mature adults.”

“Why do you sound so surprised?” Aza asked him suspiciously, “Me and Estinien are very mature!”

“Yes,” Aymeric picked up his pen and went back to his paperwork, “Hiding under my desk to avoid punishment, and running away into the wilderness speaking to no one for six months is very mature.”

Aza exchanged a grimace with Estinien at that. Right, Aymeric could really hold a petty grudge sometimes.  

“When will you let that go…?” Estinien grumbled, “In any case, I’ll leave you to your work. I have… interrupted you enough, and I’m tired of stinking of cheap ale.”

“Wait one moment,” Aymeric said, dropping his pen abruptly and opening his desk drawer. He rummaged through it under the curious eyes of Aza and Estinien both, and procured… his spare key, “Take this. Instead of braving the Forgotten Knight’s temperamental hot water system, you can-”

“Aymeric,” Estinien interrupted, “No. You’re not tricking me into staying at your home.”

Aza stayed quiet, feeling almost like an intruder as Aymeric levelled Estinien with an unreadable look. There was a lot of unsaid words that lingered in the silence between them, and Aza fought the urge to fidget, not to bring attention to himself as he looked from Aymeric to Estinien, who was staring fixedly at the corner of the desk like it had personally wronged him.

This was why he wanted Estinien and Aymeric to tie up their loose end. There was a lot of… something, here. Nothing that would be threatening to Aza, but it was enough to make him feel uncomfortable and a little jealous. There was a lot of history between these two – hell, they had known each other from a young age, a history Aza had no chance to match. He swallowed those selfish, ugly feelings down, even if it felt like forcing down a jagged rock in his throat.

“You don’t need to stay,” Aymeric said when the silence threatened to become awkward, “It is an option open to you, whenever you want to take it. No strings.”

Estinien’s mouth twisted, and for a moment Aza thought he was going to refuse from stubborn pride alone. Then he let out an abrupt, explosive sigh, stomping forwards and snatching the offered keys like he thought they were going to leap up and bite him if he didn’t grab them fast enough.

“I’m not staying,” Estinien repeated, already storming out in a queer sulk, “Especially not at night. This is only for the hot water!”

And then he was gone, leaving the doorway gaping open with Knight Oseux warily peeking in. With a nod from Aymeric, the knight quickly closed the door, and the air felt almost tense when it closed with a decisive ‘click’.

Aza was determined not to be affected though, “Well. That went okay.”

Aymeric glanced at him, looking almost cautious and worried, “Did it? You look annoyed.”

Did he? Aza belatedly realised that his tail was swishing agitatedly, his ears canted in a way that spoke of irritation. He sucked in a short breath, and let it out slow, feeling his body ease from a tense posture he didn’t even realise he slipped into.

“I’m not annoyed,” Aza said, unsure if he was lying or not, “There’s a lot of history between you and Estinien. I just… noticed it then.”

Aymeric leaned back in his seat, tapping the edge of his desk with his finger, “Estinien said you didn’t seem bothered by it. If you are, then…”

“I’m not,” Aza shook his head with a rough sigh, already regretting the topic, “Bothered about it, I mean. We’re mature adults, and I trust you. You and Esty, even if he’s a bastard. It’s just kinda different knowing about it, and seeing the remains of it, I guess.”

Aymeric was quiet for a long moment, giving him an intensely searching look, “This isn’t the true motivation behind your matchmaking, is it?”

Well… “Kind of? I do think he needs to get laid. He’s so fucking uptight.”

Aymeric let out a short exhale that almost edged into a laugh, “Well, I agree with you on that.”

“See,” Aza found himself smiling, relaxing into the conversation, “I mean, he was hitting it off fine with Fel-”

He paused.

“Fuck,” he blurted, realising that Estinien had come here alone meaning… where was Felyx?

Aymeric straightened up, already alert, “Wha-”

“Gotta go!” he yelled, exploding into motion, “I’ll see you later, handsome! Bye!”

He bolted out of the office, leaving a puzzled Aymeric behind.


He found Felyx in one piece in the Forgotten Knight, drunkenly flirting with a very stoic Sid while Rielle looked on in morbid fascination.

Aza hastily rescued Felyx from that potential disaster in the making and also, whilst soothing Sid’s ruffled feathers, got an idea.

Sid was kind of like Estinien… maybe…

Hmmm.

Chapter Text

Estinien lingered longer than he meant to at Aymeric’s home.

After taking the bath and scrubbing the dried ale out of his hair, he reasoned that it would be a pain to tromp out into the snow with wet hair and decided to loiter. He was curious to see how much of Aymeric’s home had changed since he last stayed here, properly, and felt a weird mix of pleasure-disappointment when the answer was: barely.

He stayed away from the bedroom, but everything else about the place was the same.

It would’ve been easier it if changed. Easier to distance himself from foolish, heartache-inducing memories if Aymeric had bothered to remodel the place or at least got different furniture. It was an idiotic thought, one Estinien huffed out a wry laugh over. What a fickle thing, the heart. Intellectually, rationally and emotionally, Estinien had made his peace with Aymeric no longer loving him like that. Still, like an old injury that ached years afterwards, he still felt an odd pang or two when his gaze snagged on something that would elicit an old, fond memory hazy with affection and passion.

“Stop being a lovelorn fool. It’s over,” he muttered to himself as he sank down onto the sofa in the living room, relishing being underdressed for once. It got cumbersome hefting his armour about all hours of the day, and there was an undeniable pleasure in stretching out in simple breeches and shirt without the pinch or weight of metal or straps. How Aza could stand to be in armour almost 24/7, he had no idea.

Embarrassingly, surrounded by an environment that had gave him comfort since the first few days of that ill-fated fling he had with Aymeric, Estinien very quickly dozed off. The past few months had been spent living on snatched sleep, since the wilderness was unkind to vulnerable, sleeping Elezens and his dreams were even crueller. So, to let down his guard, a little, a fraction, in the safety of Aymeric’s home was… nice. A little nice. He still wasn’t staying though. Just a quick nap, and…

He dropped quietly off to sleep.


He woke up abruptly, from deep sleep to wakefulness in the manner of seconds, groggy and bewildered but alert to something in his personal space.

“Ah,” Aymeric’s voice murmured, and Estinien blinked the sleep out of his eyes to see his friend straightening up from where he’d been leaning over him with a sheepish look about him, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Mmmrgh?” Estinien mumbled stupidly, pushing himself up onto his elbow. He was sprawled across the sofa, a thick blanket draped over him. His arm was numb, pins and needles creeping into his fingers, and his head was pounding in the way that spoke of overindulgence of sleep and dehydration, “Shit. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”

Aymeric laughed at him, “You obviously needed it. You were snoring loud enough to bring the house down when we came in.”

“Gods damn it,” Estinien grumbled, reluctantly sitting up and raking his fingers through his hair. It had dried in a tangled, wavy mess. Fantastic, “How long…?”

“It’s well into night time,” Aymeric said, tilting his head towards the large window that took up most of the living room’s far wall. The curtains were drawn, but the orangey glow of streetlight was filtering through, “Just before eleven.”

Eleven?” Gods, Estinien had been asleep for almost twelve hours! No wonder he felt so rotten.

“You needed it,” Aymeric repeated, more firmly this time, “And still need it, considering you look like death warmed over. When was the last time you had a full night’s sleep?”

“Just now, apparently,” Estinien said a mite waspishly, feeling antsy for reasons he couldn’t quite explain. He hadn’t intended to be caught in Aymeric’s home, because he knew it was going to be borderline impossible to wriggle free from his friend’s clutches and hide in the Forgotten Knight for the next week. That intruder feeling from the morning reared its head again, sticking like a thorn stuck just under the skin.

He drew a short breath, dropping his gaze, “I think-”

“Is Sleeping Beauty awake?” Aza’s voice cut in, and Estinien almost had a damn heart attack when the Miqo’te flopped against the back of the sofa hard enough that it shuddered, “Oh, he is. Hi, Esty.”

“It’s Estinien,” he said tersely, but his heart wasn’t in it anymore.

“You snore really loudly,” Aza said with a very cheeky smile, a very attractive smile that made Estinien’s pulse jump and dread fill his belly in equal measure. Aza smiling at him like that meant he was planning something that’ll piss him off, he could feel it in his bones, “And you make very cute noises when you sleep talk-”

“I’m going to hurt you.”

“No fighting in my house,” Aymeric said, fixing Estinien with a warning look. Him! Aza was the one being provocative! Then Aymeric shot a much firmer look Aza’s way, clearly trying to send some sort of silent message with his gaze alone as he said, very pointedly, “Aza, don’t tease him.”

“Yes, mother,” Aza drawled, then hefted himself over the back of the sofa and – Estinien barely avoided getting elbowed in the head when the Miqo’te just flopped like the cat he was, half-squashing him when he landed right against his side. Estinien was instantly aware of the press of that firm, muscular body against him, the weight of Aymeric’s familiar gaze on him, and wondered if Halone was testing him right now, sandwiching him between these two.

Aymeric sighed, taking in Aza’s shite-eating grin and Estinien’s blank, stony face and decided he was washing his hands of this matter entirely. “I’ll set up the guest room for you. Don’t wreck my sofa,” he said, retreating from the room before Estinien could even protest.

“Oh, look at that, now you have to stay,” Aza purred, digging his elbow hard into his ribs, “See, Aym’s going through the effort of making a room for you and everything.”

“I didn’t ask him to,” Estinien said through gritted teeth, balling his fists in his lap as he felt Aza shift next to him. He dared to glance over, to see the Miqo’te looking at him with a smile that was all teeth and sharp canines – threatening and challenging and enough to make Estinien’s pulse hot and quick in his throat. He found himself wondering how those teeth would feel digging into his shoulder – and sharply squashed that thought flat before his body could run with that thought.

“You shouldn’t have fallen asleep here then,” Aza told him very mildly, “C’mon. It’s like you wanna be fussed over. Just admit you’re lonely and enjoy our company, you stubborn idiot.”

That brought Estinien up short. He frowned at Aza, and for a long moment they just stared at each other, Estinien wary and Aza… just plain distracting. The Miqo’te was peering up at him from beneath his dark eyelashes, his challenging grin easing into a faint smile, his body languid and relaxed in its lazy sprawl against the sofa’s arm. Estinien could feel the ball of Aza’s foot press into the meat of his thigh, his other leg dangling off the edge of the sofa, and that slight bit of contact felt like a hot brand.

“Stay here tonight,” Aza murmured, “And we’ll do something fun tomorrow while Aym’s working, just you and me.”

Why did he have to say it like that.

“Will it be another blind date?” Estinien asked bluntly, refusing to be charmed or dazzled into mindlessly agreeing. His will was made of sterner stuff than that, “Because then my answer will be ‘no’.”

Aza jutted his bottom lip out in a pout, and Estinien’s gaze focused on it despite his best efforts, “It’s not a blind date,” he grumbled, “It’s just a lil’ hunt I’ll need help with. That’s all.”

Estinien regarded him suspiciously, but Aza seemed to be telling the truth, so he relaxed a fraction. If it was a hunt Aza needed help with, then it had to be a difficult prey to corner indeed. Estinien felt his mood lift at the thought, a more familiar excitement kindling in his belly at the thought of testing his lance against a powerful foe. He had been stagnating, wandering the wilderness by himself, he could admit, so improving his martial ability sounded very fun to him.

 “Besides, I dunno what you’re complaining about,” Aza continued, “You seemed to hit it off well with Felyx. What went wrong?” he paused, then winced, “Aside from the, um, Ale Incident…”

Estinien made a face. Yes, Aza’s friend had been extremely easy on the eyes and been very pleasant to talk to, but he just wasn’t… Aza. That was the problem. Estinien had no time for those who couldn’t keep up with him, and while Felyx was probably skilled in his crafting, he was clearly no warrior. He couldn’t push him to the brink in the sparring ring, couldn’t challenge him, couldn’t get in his face and beat sense into him if he had to… that was why he warmed up to Aymeric, eventually. That bastard had come across so well-mannered and mild when they first met, but then that patrol happened and…

To put it bluntly, Estinien just found himself comparing Felyx to Aza, and found his blind date sorely lacking. Felyx was too gentle, was too polite, was too laidback and backed down far too easily, was too diplomatic and didn’t bare his fangs when he smiled. Unlike Aza who was rough, blunt and butted heads with him without the slightest shred of fear, who looked at him and didn’t see the man who shamefully succumbed to Nidhogg or was disappointed by the flaking shine of the ‘Azure Dragoon’, but instead saw a ‘dumbass that needs his head kicked out of his ass every few weeks’ and challenged him to be better. The lack of respect rankled, but it was also… something. Estinien couldn’t really describe it.  

“He… was not my type,” Estinien said reluctantly.

“Not your type,” Aza repeated slowly, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully, “So, who would be your type? Someone who could keep up with you, right?”

“Mm.”

“Someone who… you can fight on an even level?” Aza was smiling now, “Someone who won’t take your shit and tell you when you’re being an insufferable asshole?”

“Hey,” Estinien frowned.

“That’s a very small pool to choose from,” Aza said lightly, “Which you can’t really afford ‘cuz of your shitty personality. You might need to lower your standards some.”

“I didn’t ask you to pair me up with someone,” Estinien growled, feeling his eye start to twitch, “Not everyone needs to be in a relationship to be happy.”

“That’s true,” Aza said, “But you’re not happy right now. You’re lonely and bored and kinda want a distraction, so I’m giving one to you. Just roll with it, Esty. It’ll be fun.”

It sounded like Estinien’s idea of hell, but it was like arguing with a wall at this point. Besides, Aza was right. He was bored (not lonely), and extremely frustrated and touch-starved. Maybe he will find someone he could stomach long enough for a one-night stand, and hopefully vent all these aggravating, sexual urges before he did something stupid that could irreparably damage Aza and Aymeric’s relationship.  

“I reserve the right to reject every date’s advances,” Estinien said flatly, giving in with ill-grace.

Aza sobered at that, “Of course. You don’t have to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

Estinien nodded at that, then asked mildly, “So, tomorrow’s ‘hunting trip’…?”

“A guy called Sidurgu,” Aza admitted without a hint of shame, “He’s really strong and doesn’t stand for much nonsense, so I think you two will get along fine. Or at least okayish? He is handsome too, if you’re not put off by horns and scales… you don’t mind those, right?”

Estinien closed his eyes and sighed, already regretting this, “Are you setting me up with a dragon.”

Aza made a weird noise, biting his bottom lip for a long moment before he said, a little tensely, “Um, no. He’s a Xaela. Au Ra. Gods, please do not call him a dragon when you see him.”

“…” Estinien glanced at Aza – and smirked, “Of course I won’t.”

It’ll be the first thing out of his mouth.


Aymeric ambushed him on his way to the guest room, after Aza kicked him off the sofa.

“You don’t have to humour Aza’s attempts at matchmaking,” he said, looking dishevelled and tired and very tempting, much to Estinien’s irritation. Aymeric had dressed down into a simple shirt and breeches, his collar popped open in a shocking display of casualness that betrayed his friend’s exhaustion. Estinien didn’t feel a hot, passionate flush of lust like he did with Aza, but it was something more comfortable and concrete – he knew exactly what to do when Aymeric was tired like this, to get him purring and relaxed, and the temptation was there.

But Estinien smothered it without batting an eye, even if the warm affection lingered.

“He will grow bored of it eventually,” Estinien said, leaning back on his heels and planting his hands on his hips. Aymeric’s gaze dropped to his hips briefly, but Estinien tried not to read anything into it, “And it may prove entertaining, to see what creatures he tries to pair me up with.”

Aymeric sighed, but he was smiling, “I would ask you to be gentle in your rejections, but… I think that’s beyond you.”

“I can be a gentleman when I feel like it,” Estinien sniffed.

“You never feel like it.”

“I know,” Estinien said shamelessly, “He already has another date lined up for me tomorrow. A ‘Sidurgu’. On a scale of one to Charibert, how insufferable will I find him?”

“Sidurgu,” Aymeric repeated, making a very… interesting face at the name, “He is, ah. Well, to put it bluntly, he’s a Xaela version of you, almost. Perhaps a mite moodier.”

“We will probably try to murder each other within the hour then,” Estinien concluded, “Hm, might prove interesting.”

“Please don’t kill Aza’s friends.”

“My ‘suitors’ need to keep up with me, off and on the battlefield,” Estinien said, “A battle to the death is the swiftest way to establish that.”

Aymeric closed his eyes, as if praying for divine strength, then let out a short sigh, “Estinien…”

“I only jest,” Estinien drawled, “Not to worry. I will endure Aza’s well intentioned, albeit bad matchmaking attempts. I have been rather bored as late, and this seems like a good distraction.”

Aymeric opened his eyes to fix him with a look, then, as if wondering whether or not Estinien was being sarcastic, “You are… open to the matchmaking?”

“Not open as such, but amenable,” Estinien said, confused when Aymeric just frowned at him, “What?”

“Nothing,” his friend said, his odd expression vanishing as if it had never been, “You best rest up for your outing tomorrow. I believe Aza made plans to stage your date in the Behemoth’s den, of all places.”

“Romantic,” Estinien deadpanned.

“Aza seems to think so,” Aymeric muttered, and clearly there was a story there, but his friend just shook his head and turned away, “Good night, Estinien. Enjoy your date.”

Estinien watched him go with a small frown, puzzled by Aymeric’s abrupt standoffishness. Aza told him that he and Aymeric was conspiring to matchmake him – or rather, Aza roped him into it against his will, but he would have thought his friend would be somewhat eager to see him ‘not dying alone’, like Aza kept muttering at him, and partnering up with someone to put this old thing between them to full rest.

Maybe he’s jealous, a traitorous, giddy thought whispered to him, maybe he doesn’t want to see you with someone else!

Or perhaps, he thought back aggressively, Aymeric is annoyed on his behalf at his partner’s meddling. His friend knew how much he preferred to avoid socialising of that nature – especially against his will. Or perhaps he was just tired and grumpy. There could be many reasons why Aymeric got annoyed.

Still…

Estinien boxed that thought up and pushed it down, turning away to enter his room- the guestroom. Aymeric was right, he should rest up for his outing tomorrow, and not reading into things that no longer mattered.

Still.

The thought lingered.

Chapter Text

The sun was only just staining the horizon a dark pink when Estinien was roused by the noise of bustling filtering through the guestroom door. He remained still for a moment, confused, before he cracked one sleep-gummed eye open to see that godawful wallpaper that Aymeric insisted on using in his home.

Right. Aymeric’s home.

Estinien felt boneless with a fatigue that felt core deep – but also starving and very much dying for a piss. His body hated him right now, and Estinien kind of hated it back. He was so comfortable where he was, groggy with overindulgence of sleep or not, for once sleeping without ill-dreams and raspy, inhuman voices whispering in the dark corners of his mind. It was a peace he never achieved out in the wilderness, a peace that would vanish the moment he stepped out of the guestroom and had to face the hot mess his life had become.

He sighed.

The pressure in his bladder eventually overcame him. He did his business in the bathroom, freshened up so he didn’t look so much like a corpse, and slinked out of his room with his nose following the savoury smell of cooked breakfast. Aza or Aymeric must’ve gotten food to fill those empty cabinets of theirs yesterday.

Estinien knew what would be for breakfast: that awful, sugar sweet birch syrup tea Aymeric insisted on poisoning his body with, as well as the equally sweet bavarois and some fucking croissant shit. He had no idea how Aymeric could shovel that into his body everyday and not die from some blood sugar disease or a heart attack. Hopefully, Aza was a little more normal when it came to breakfast, and he could filch something from his plate.

Curious, hungry and relaxed, Estinien walked into the dining room where he heard the light, contented chatter of his two friends.

The dining table was unnecessarily huge, built for when House Borel was more than one man, and Aza and Aymeric occupied the very end of it. Aymeric was dressed in formal noble attire, probably more of a House of Lords day than a Lord Commander day, then, and Aza was in his dark gambeson, minus the breastplate, sitting with his legs stretched out under the table, crossed at the ankle, with his arms resting on the table in such a casual way that any well-mannered noble would turn their nose up in disgust. A pot of tea sat between them, wisps of steam trailing upwards, and Estinien glanced over their plates as he approached-

“Toast?” he blurted in surprise, immediately drawing his friends’ attention.

“Esty!” Aza greeted cheerfully, straightening up from his slouch, “You hungry? I’ve got a spare slice of toast going.”

Aymeric glanced furtively at him, his expression clearly telling Estinien not to say a damn word about his food choice. Now that Estinien was really looking, his friend’s plate was piled with brown toast and scrambled eggs, and the pot of tea smelled like normal tea. No syrup bottle in sight or the sickly smell of melted sugar. And was that… a glass of orange juice at Aymeric’s elbow? Was he… was he eating healthily? Aymeric “I can live off nothing but cream and jam scones for a week” de Borel?

“I won’t say no to some toast,” Estinien said, unable to stop the smirk starting to curl his mouth as he pulled the chair out at the very end of the table, putting him in between the two. He sat down, accepting the plate Aza shoved his way, and slanted an amused look at Aymeric.

“So,” Estinien began, “Finally knocked that sugar habit, then.”

Aymeric made a very low noise in the back of his throat, muted by a mouthful of healthy multigrain bread and good manners. The narrowed, dark glower he shot him spoke volumes, though.

“Not without a fight,” Aza grunted, shooting Aymeric a glower of his own. Estinien marvelled at how his friend seemed to cow at the look, “Stop sulking, Aym. This is for your own good. If you kept going on like you were, you were gonna die of some stupid heart disease before you hit fifty.”

Amazing. This was fantastic. Estinien leaned back in his seat and decided to enjoy the show, not bothering to hide his grin.

Aymeric finally swallowed and muttered, “It wasn’t that bad.”

“Wasn’t that bad,” Aza scoffed and rolled his eyes, “Let’s see, how many pots of birch syrup did you go through last year? Hmm, let me think…”

“Aza,” Aymeric groaned.  

“Oh yes, I remember now. It was three hundred and twenty,” Aza growled, jabbing a finger in Aymeric’s direction, “That’s not taking into account all the wet jelly cake things-”

“Bavarois,” Estinien chimed in helpfully, absolutely delighted by what was happening.

“-the bavarois, the teacakes, the croissants and the scones you ate during the day! By the Twelve, so many scones at those House of Lords meetings,” Aza huffed, “I see now why most nobles have dental problems here...”

“It is the leading cause of death amongst the nobility,” Estinien said, “A tooth infection from cavities, and such.”

“Exactly!” Aza smacked the table with the heel of his palm, making the cutlery clatter, “Thank you, Esty. So, yes, it was that bad. You’ll thank me later, Aym, when you’re seventy and still have most of your teeth.”

“Can at least have my tea-”

“You can have your birch syrup tea after you eat your fucking toast,” Aza said, his expression mulish. This was the man that refused to give in despite impossible odds, and such immovable stubbornness was now contending with Aymeric’s irresistible pouting. Estinien had to applaud Aza for his ability to resist the sad expression of utter betrayal on Aymeric’s face. Even his cold heart felt compelled to slip his friend some sort of treat under the table – if he had one, that is. Probably a good thing he didn’t, as Aza looked liable to bite any who defied his tyrannical healthy diet plan.

“Those puppy eyes don’t work on me,” Aza continued, utterly unmoved, “I don’t know why you’re so sulky about this. It’s not like I’ve completely cut you off. I’m bringing you apple tarts later, remember?”

Aymeric visibly perked up at that, “Oh, that is true. How many will I get?”

“I’ll let that be a surprise,” Aza said dryly, but his expression was very fond now, a sweet little smile beginning to curve his mouth. Estinien could feel himself get diabetes just from witnessing it, “Now, c’mon. Eat your toast.”

“Yes, dear,” Aymeric sighed, but obediently finished up the last few morsels of his toast.

Content that his partner was sticking to the diet plan for now, Aza turned to Estinien with the beginnings of a shite-eating grin, “Onto the other problem child. You ready for your date, Esty?”

“As I’d ever be,” Estinien said, carefully watching Aymeric’s reaction in his peripheral vision. His friend was frowning, though whether that was from the toast or the topic of conversation, he couldn’t tell, “Will there actually be a hunt, or is it all an excuse?”

“There’s a hunt,” Aza hummed, “You know, in case you need to dodge an awkward silence by killing something.”

That sounded fair. Nothing broke an awkward silence like a good murder.

“And our mark…?”

“You’ll find out,” Aza said vaguely, his gaze flicking to Aymeric briefly, “It’ll be interesting though, I promise.”

Curious. Estinien took a thoughtful bite out of his toast, wondering at Aza’s secrecy. There wasn’t much to hunt out near the Behemoth Den, except its moniker. There were crocs, a few ornery hyppogryffs, but they were small fry. Uninteresting. It must be a Behemoth… or a dragon? Maybe it was a dragon.

“Whatever you’re hunting,” Aymeric spoke up, brushing his hands clean of crumbs, “Please be careful. Remember the last time you went to the den…”

“Crisp managed to put my guts back in fine,” Aza sighed, ignoring Estinien’s shocked choking on his toast, “It barely left a scar and I woke up after a day. It was fine.”

“Your guts-” Estinien coughed into his hand, looking in disbelief at Aymeric. His friend was looking up at the ceiling, like he was asking Halone herself for patience, so Estinien looked back at a rather irritated looking Aza and stressed; “Your guts?”

“Disembowelling isn’t that fatal,” Aza said with total seriousness and an utterly straight face.

What the fuck, Estinien thought.

“Fatal or not,” Aymeric sighed, like this was a perfectly normal thing to argue over, “I really don’t like seeing you bedridden…”

“Aw, Aym,” Aza softened up a little.

“…because you get bored and spend most of your time complaining about it. You become an absolute menace,” Aymeric finished with a quiet huff, “The bedroom wall is still dented from a few months ago, by the way.”

“That,” Aza started, then paused in open embarrassment, going a curious shade of red, “Um, yeah, I’ll get around to fixing that.”

Estinien sat there, his toast forgotten in his hand as he glanced between the two. He felt a little out of place in this conversation, ignorant of the little inside joke that had Aza flushing in sheepish embarrassment and Aymeric looked far too smugly amused. He lowered his gaze to his plate, quietly finishing off his toast as his two friends continued to banter and tease one another, a tight feeling beginning to clench somewhere behind his sternum.

He was happy for them, in a way. He genuinely was. Still. There was a tinge of regret and jealousy sharpening its edges, making the toast uncomfortably dry when he tried to swallow it down. He didn’t let it bother him, though. He was a mature adult, despite what Aymeric said, and he’d deal with this like a mature adult. He could do that for Aymeric’s sake at the very least, and no matter what Aza said, he was better deserving of Aymeric than Estinien ever was. For one he didn’t get possessed by an ancient, revenge fuelled dragon and killed scores of his own countrymen. He didn’t flee to parts unknown without a single word or goodbye. He didn’t… abandon Aymeric.

Estinien brushed the crumbs off his fingers, regretting the toast now. It sat in his stomach like a rock as that thought squatted like an ugly gargoyle in the forefront of his mind. Ah, one of those days, then.   

“You’re oddly quiet,” Aza said to him suddenly, and Estinien suddenly found himself the victim of twin stares of concern from his two companions, “Not a fan of toast?”

Estinien drew the jagged pieces of himself together enough to reply, “It was bland. You should’ve had some jam with it.”

Thank you,” Aymeric grumbled, “That’s what I said.”

“Well, I guess jam would’ve been okay. It is all natural sugars…” Aza said with open reluctance, and Estinien relaxed when the conversation shifted away from him once more.

Get it together, he ordered himself, giving himself a mental shake and clasping his hands in his lap, out of sight. He had a hunt, a date, and the rest of the day to get through. Mayhaps he could play Aymeric’s game and have another mission assigned to him, one that would take him deep into the mountains and away from civilisation for a few days. He was feeling increasingly pressured and claustrophobic as the minutes dragged on.

It was moments like these, where he felt like he should’ve stayed away. It would’ve been easier.

Cowardly… but easier.


“You’re hunting?”

“Aza’s asked me to help him with something,” Sid said gruffly, finishing up the last buckle on his vambrace. He looked up when he was done, at Rielle drowsily sitting on the edge of her bed with her hair a tangled mess. It was still early – earlier than Rielle normally got up, and Sid felt that wriggle of hesitance he always got whenever he was forced to leave her alone, but, well, food won’t magically buy itself.

“Mmm,” Rielle muffled a yawn behind her hand, squinting her eyes shut and making a tiny squeaking noise like a kitten, “H-Hooow…mmnph. How long will you be gone?”

“I’ll be back by mid-afternoon, by Aza’s reckoning,” Sid said, casting a critical eye over the room. It was one of the more smaller rooms of the Forgotten Knight, but it had two beds and a roof, so it was luxury as far as Sid was concerned. There were days where he felt like he should try to save up for something more… permanent, for Rielle’s sake, but between buying them food, renting this room, and paying for books to help further Rielle’s conjury and general education, it was very slow going.

But this was a chance for him to get a little more. It rubbed him all wrong to be reduced to petty mercenary work, but it was for Rielle’s sake. It was fine when he was by himself, living solely for the duty of a Dark Knight, but there was more than just him now. He had to weigh and prioritise his beliefs with reality now.

(He absolutely refused to admit the Moogles were right and say he was doing it out of love. Rielle was his responsibility now, and Sid never half-assed a single thing in his life. If he was looking after her, he’ll put everything he had into it! Love didn’t necessarily have to come into that (love definitely came into it).)

“Okay,” Rielle gave him one last groggy look, and shuffled back into her bed, pulling the thin covers up, “Be careful, Sid.”

“I’m always careful. It’s Aza that attracts all the weird shit,” Sid grumbled, “Remember to have breakfast.”

“I will,” Rielle promised, “You eat something too.”

Sid grunted, then lingered for a few seconds more, double checking that he left her enough gil to feed herself for the day, that the room was warm enough and the window shut, before hefting up his greatsword and attaching it to the magnetic sheath on his back. To be honest, he was sort of eager to fight alongside Aza again – as crazy as that bastard was, he and Sid got along well enough. Sometimes he was too much like Fray, but, hell, sometimes that was a comfort too.

Aza promised a good payout for this hunt too, and that bit of extra cash was a comfort too.

With that last thought, he bade Rielle goodbye and left their little, rented room, utterly unaware that this very welcome job, was a very unwelcome blind date.   

Chapter Text

“Urgh, fuck, I can’t go on anymore…”

Estinien dispassionately watched as Aza theatrically braced himself on his knees, panting from exertion. The Miqo’te was flushed and dripping with sweat, his hair and armour smattered with frost… and clearly exhausted from wading through several malms worth of hip deep snow. For Estinien, it wasn’t so bad – it came to above his knees, and he was long used to the burn in his quads from wading through it, but Aza… well.

“So, this is all it takes to bring the fearsome Warrior of Light to his knees,” Estinien drawled, smirking when Aza shot him a dark glare from beneath his messy fringe, “Deep snow.”

Shut up, I don’t have fucking- freaky long legs like you,” Aza hissed, pushing himself straight again and stubbornly wading forwards once more. Estinien just shrugged and followed with much less effort. 

At some point during the night snow had fallen thick and fast over the Coerthas Highlands, blanketing even the patrol routes and the supply road from the Steps of Faith to Whitebrim. The guard at the gate had said that the road wouldn’t be cleared until late afternoon at the latest, but Aza had been determined that the pair of them could still wander down to Whitebrim in good time without need for a Chocobo.

Or, rather, Aza had vehemently protested making Rations work in such terrible conditions, citing the risk of her tripping and breaking a leg. Obviously, the same risk applied to themselves, but Estinien was quickly coming to the realisation that on Aza’s list of priorities Rations came first, then Aymeric, then everything else. So, off they went, braving the deep snow to realise Aza’s ambition to hook Estinien up on a date he didn’t even volunteer for.

To Estinien’s delight, Aza was obviously regretting it now.

“Do you even think this ‘Sid’ will be there in these conditions?” Estinien asked mildly, only slightly out of breath compared to Aza’s heavy breathing, “He might have taken one look of the road and decided against it.”

“Sid doesn’t half-ass anything,” Aza panted, “If I tell him to be somewhere, to help me out, he’ll be there, even if he’s gotta march through a blizzard. He’s that kind of guy.”

Estinien wasn’t sure if that was a sign of loyalty or stupidity, but it sounded like something he would do if Aymeric ever requested his assistance with something…

Loyalty, then.

He let the silence settle between them after that, eyeing Aza’s grim struggle through the snow. He had to admit, it was impressive that the Miqo’te had gone on for so long. Those powerful legs weren’t just for show, it seemed. For a few minutes, the only thing Estinien could hear was the crunch of snow, Aza’s heavy breathing and the occasional grunt of exertion. It was probably a sign that his mind was a filthy one, but he couldn’t help but find those noises… suggestive.   

“I can carry you, if you want,” Estinien offered, not bothering to hide his open amusement at Aza’s struggling, “You’re only little, so I expect you’d only weigh about as much as a kitten.”

The glare Aza slanted his way could have stripped paint.

Little,” Aza hissed, his voice colder than the surrounding ice, “Kitten.”

Ah, Estinien touched a nerve. Fantastic.

“Yes, a little kitten,” Estinien purred, smirking when Aza visibly fumed, “It’s difficult to view you as anything else, what with you bumbling so clumsily in the snow like that. It’s almost cute.”

“I’ll fucking hurt you,” Aza growled, his lip curling to bare fearsome fangs, “No one would hear you scream out here.”

“Well, since I feel confident in being able to out-walk you right now, I’m not all that worried,” Estinien said, and did just that, widening his stride so he left Aza to flounder in his snowy wake, calling over his shoulder; “Try not to trip and disappear into a snowdrift! I feel it might take me days to find you again!”

“Wha- Esty, you fucking bitch! Get back here!”

Estinien chuckled, chancing a peek over his shoulder to see Aza furiously and ineffectively flail after him. He was moving maybe a little faster but wasn’t gaining at all. He really did look adorable, though, all red-faced and his tail’s fur all fluffed up as he angrily floundered through hip-deep snow, his ears flattened back against his messy hair. Estinien waggled his fingers at him in a playful goodbye, delighted when Aza made a noise like steam escaping a boiling kettle, and continued on without a backwards glance.

ESTINIEN!!”


Meanwhile, at the Behemoth’s Den, Sid grumbled under his breath as he shifted his weight from foot to foot, curling his numb toes to warm them up as he waited. The high, dark cliffs did nothing to protect him from the chilly wind, instead funnelling it as a biting gust that cut right through the thick furs he wore under his armour. A pale, faint layer of frost had even begun to coat the dark metal, broken up by uneven smears when he had bad-temperedly tried to wipe it off.

It was past an hour since he was to meet up with Aza, and he wasn’t concerned as such – nothing out here could threaten the Miqo’te, not even the Behemoths – but it was highly unusual for him to be late. Aza had the uncanny ability to always be on time, or arrive when he’s most needed, so for him to be late was… odd.

“If he got distracted mooning over that Lord Commander of his…” Sid muttered under his breath, rubbing at his numbing nose when another painfully sharp gust buffeted him. He grumbled wordlessly as he hunched deeper into his armour, crossing his arms awkwardly over his breastplate as he forced his frozen legs to move. Fuck it. If Aza was late, he was going to go kill something to stay warm!

He started to trudge moodily through the snow, back towards Whitebrim to maybe thin the Hyppogryph herd that preyed on this narrow valley. Ishgardian workers and scholars frequently travelled through here, after all, to study Snowcloak, and there were never enough Temple Knights to do a committed extermination patrol along this route. Maybe if he killed and skinned a few, he could get some extra coin from the levemaster at Whitebrim…

Ugh. That made him sound like a right adventurer.

“’It’ll be a quick and easy job, Sid’,” he grumbled, mimicking Aza’s husky, deep voice with minimal effort, “’It’ll be fun, Sid. Oh, don’t worry about the snow, it won’t be that cold’. Fucking liar…”

So deep in his grumbling, it took him a moment to hear it – distant yelling, almost snatched away by the howling wind. He paused mid-trudge, tilting his head to let his horns catch the noise better, and frowned as he looked further up the path. Everything was a little hazy here, powdery snow kicking up with each aggressive gust, but he could see two figures walking towards him at speed.

No, not walking. Running.

Bemused, Sid leaned back on his heels and watched as those figures became more defined – one tall, Elezen, one short, Miqo’te? Au Ra? – and the yelling transitioned into intelligible shouting, and- ah. Yes. He recognised that specific pitch of screeching.  

“-CK HERE YOU PIECE OF SHIT!” Aza howled, “YOU CAN’T OUTRUN ME!”

“I’m doing a fairly good job of it right now!” the unknown Elezen yelled back, sounding abso-fucking-lutely delighted about being chased by a furious, screeching Aza.

Howling some inarticulate noise of frustrated rage, Aza lunged forwards with clear intent to strangle and/or maim. The Elezen nimbly sidestepped, letting a squawking Aza face-plant into the snow with such force that he rolled from the momentum, flailing and kicking up snow as he went tumbling ass over teakettle down the path a good few fulms.  

Sid sighed.

Stoically, he started trudging towards the pair, where the Elezen stopped to point and laugh at Aza’s embarrassing display. They were like a pair of children, Sid thought sourly, suspiciously eyeing the Elezen the closer he got. Something about him seemed familiar, but for the life of him, Sid couldn’t place it.

“Oh, I am going to remember that for years,” the unknown Elezen chortled, slapping his knee before he straightened up, his pale face flushed from mirth and the cold wind, “The next time someone brings up how graceful you are…”

Fuck you!” Aza snarled, violently flailing upright with his face a vivid shade of red – from exertion or embarrassment, Sid didn’t know. Sitting in the deep snow, the Miqo’te looked like a ruffled kitten, bristling and fluffed up with his little fangs bared. Sid knew that as a warning that biting was imminent, something the unknown Elezen either didn’t know, or didn’t care about.

“I just- I slipped, is all!” Aza continued, oblivious to the Elezen’s attention sharply diverting from him – to Sid, “This path is so fucking icy-”

“Aza,” Sid cut in, ignoring the heavy stare the Elezen was pinning him down. Any trace of amusement was gone from the man, and honestly, there was something familiar about that flat, unimpressed line of his mouth, the tension in his jaw, but Sid couldn’t recall it in the slightest.

“Eh?” Aza stopped mid-rant, blinking up at Sid with near comical bewilderment for a few seconds, “Huh? Sid?”

“Yeah. Me.”

“Sid,” the Elezen repeated very slowly.

“Yeah, Sid,” Aza said, his earlier rage vanishing like mist to make way for open embarrassment, “Shit, I forgot. How long’ve you been waiting?”

“Over an hour,” Sid said flatly, “Who’s this?”

“Who’s who? Him?” Aza jerked his chin at the blank-faced Elezen, starting to carefully climb back to his feet, “Just some asshole.”

“Thanks,” Just Some Asshole said dryly.

“Okay, fine,” Aza huffed, “This is Esti- Esty. He’s a friend of mine.”

“A friend, huh?” Sid drawled, eyeing up this ‘friend’. Aza kept strange companions from time to time, but this Elezen looked remarkably normal. Well, sort of. He had an eerie, dead-eyed stare that made his scales crawl, but it had nothing on Fray’s ‘corpse-stare’. Dismissing the nagging familiarity for now, Sid just accepted the inevitable weirdness that was going to come.

C’mon. This was Aza. Anything involving him turned weird.

“Aza decided that I needed to ‘get out more’,” ‘Esty’ said, sounding unbothered about this, “So here I am, against my will.”

“Against your- you liar,” Aza huffed, “I told you you didn’t have to come if you didn’t want to.”

Esty glanced over at Sid, and said sotto voce, “He kidnapped me.”

“I did not-

“A fun as this is,” Sid interrupted, already feeling a low-grade headache start to throb behind his eyes, “I can’t feel my toes or my tail, so can we hunt what it is we’re meant to hunt and leave?”

The corner of Esty’s mouth lifted up into a very wry smirk, and Aza made a very dramatic hrmph noise, like Sid was being a joykiller.

“I guess,” Aza said sourly, “Fine. So, you two know about the recent discovery of an old Allagan laboratory in the mithril mines, right?”

Sid stared at Aza, seeing Esty do the same in his peripheral, “… what the hell? No.”

“Oh… oh, wait, that’s secret stuff Aymeric wanted to keep quiet…” Aza mumbled, but then shrugged, “Well, anyways, there’s an Allagan lab under our feet in the mines. Or, some Allagan ruin of some kind. I’m assuming it’s a lab, because nine times out of ten, Allagans have some horror show involving inhumane experimentations in their ruins.”  

“Or killer magitek,” Esty added.

“Or killer magitek,” Aza confirmed, “I’m pretty experienced when it comes to clearing out the ‘defence systems’ of these ruins, but going at it alone is a bit much even for me. So…”

“You want us to help,” Sid said, feeling a bit uncertain. Hunting beasts was one thing, but diving into an ancient ruin of Allag? The indecision lasted only for a moment though, stubbornly shook off as he really thought it through. Like Aza said, he was experienced in Allagan monstrosities, and Sid was no slouch in a fight either. This ‘Esty’, on the other hand, was a complete unknown, but if Aza was bringing him along…

“Fine,” Sid sighed, “This better be worth what you said, though.”

“Oh, don’t worry. The pay’s really good,” Aza hummed, “Plus you’ll have extra income on whatever loot you can carry out with you.”

“Does Aymeric know about this?” Esty asked, drawing Sid up short a bit. Odd, for an Elezen to be on such familiar terms with the Lord Commander, “I remember you being a little vague with him, earlier.”

“I told him I’d take care of it this week,” Aza said evasively, “It’s fine.”

“Hmm.”

“Is this something we’ll get arrested for?” Sid sighed, not too keen on spending a few nights in an Ishgardian cell.

No. No one’s getting arrested,” Aza huffed, “Trust me. It’s fine.”

“I suppose we’ll find out,” Esty murmured in a low, dangerous tone, “Lead on, kitten.”

“Esty, I swear…” Aza growled, shooting the Elezen a nasty glare before pivoting on his heel, “C’mon. It’s in the Behemoth’s den. If we’re lucky we might get to fight one…”

Marvelling at Aza’s skewed idea of luck, Sid shook his head and followed, keeping an eye on ‘Esty’ as the Elezen walked in step with him. He was a very lanky man, with form-fitting armour – a dragoon, he realised, though the lance was a dead giveaway of that – and moved with light, sure steps that spoke of well-earned confidence… or arrogance. It remained to be seen which it was.

‘Esty’ clearly wasn’t his real name, but Sid didn’t particularly care whether it was real, or a nickname, or what. So long as he proved to be skilled with that lance, and didn’t get underfoot, Sid would tolerate his presence for Aza’s sake. Clearly the Miqo’te was up to something, but Sid had learned that whenever Aza tried to do a clever scheme, it was best to sit back and watch it inevitably blow up in his face.

He had to bite back a sigh though. So much for easy pay… he should’ve known though. With Aza, things always got more complicated than they needed to be.

Chapter Text

“So, drawing up on my vast experience in Allagan architecture-”

Estinien scoffed behind him.

Aza ignored it, “-this seems to be a lobby.”

“What? To welcome people to their abominable experimentation facility?” Estinien muttered dubiously.

“Doesn’t seem so ‘welcoming’ now,” Sid said, crossing his arms over his chest as he surveyed their surroundings.

It looked more rundown than most Allagan ruins Aza had been in. The room was half-caved in, meltwater making the walls slimy with wet limestone and the air stink of damp, alien cabling dangling from the ceiling still sparking and flickering with light and energy. It placed everything into an eerie focus, the neon pale blue light casting strange shadows across the room. It hurt Aza’s eyes something fierce.

“Strange how it’s so rundown…” he muttered to himself, carefully edging over the threshold and into the room proper. The miners who expanded their tunnel into this room had been enthusiastic in cutting as much Allagan metal from the walls, so the hole leading into the ruin looked less like a neatly done mining shaft, and more like some cockeyed hacking job.

But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that even with Aza’s expertise in Allagan ruins, he didn’t recognise this kind of layout or style at all. It was small and simplistic, for Allagans that is, with only basic power lines glowing up the walls, a thick, wide desk almost bisecting the room with a row of what Aza presumed to be chairs, though they were so fossilised underneath a layer of limestone it was difficult to tell.

No Magitek. No automated defences. Even the aether felt dull, if bloated, and Aza turned his head this way and that, the Echo thrumming uncertainly. Danger? Was there danger? He wasn’t sure.

A thunderous clang almost had him leaping out of his skin, and he spun to the sound of Sid’s cursing, the Au Ra half-stumbling over the chunk of rock he almost slipped over.

Argh, piece of shit-”

“Careful,” Estinien drawled, neatly stepping over the debris strewn about, “There’s a rock there.”

“Fucking hell, Sid,” Aza grumbled, forcing his racing heart to calm, “Just stomp your way in here why don’t you?”

Sid looked utterly indignant, booting the chunk of stone away hard enough that it clattered away loudly, “Not all of us have bloody night vision like you.”

Aza rolled his eyes and turned away, resuming his careful probe of the room. He circled the wide desk, could see small pieces of magitek that still glowed underneath the furniture. When he picked one up, however, it broke apart under his hands, so he left the rest alone. He wouldn’t know what they’re for anyways.

There was a door behind the desk, though. It had the same style of most Allagan security doors – heavy metal and powered by a flow of aether – but these were jammed open, yielding enough room for even Sid to squeeze through with enough wriggling.

He stepped towards it – and paused when something flickered through the Echo. It happened too fast for him to grasp the meaning though – hostility? No, not quite, it was- damn. Gone.

“Hmm,” he said.

“What is it?” Estinien asked from behind. Aza could hear him – or Sid – rummaging about the desk.

“Not sure,” he admitted, “A feeling in… the Echo…”

Quietly, he heard Sid mutter to Estinien; “Is that good or bad?”

“Fuck if I know.”

“It’s neither,” he said, turning around to see the pair jerk guiltily. Honestly, these ears weren’t for show! “Well, I’m sick of standing around this lobby, so let’s just dive right in, eh?”

“Are you sure we won’t be blasted into smithereens by their defence systems the moment we step inside?” Estinien said dryly.

Aza just shrugged, ignoring Estinien’s scoff and Sid’s grumble. Hey, there was no way to find out until they got in there, and at this point, even if they found some sort of control system for the automated defences, it had been so long that it wasn’t certain if it’d even work to turn them off.

So, he boldly wriggled through the half-open blast doors.

The corridor beyond was dark, excepting a few, pale blue lines glowing along the walls and ceiling. Distantly, Aza could hear the hum of electricity and machinery, but he couldn’t pinpoint from where, exactly. The corridor itself was empty and rather plain – the ceiling maintained its integrity, so there was little to no debris lining the floor. It also split into two directions after about fifty yalms, and Aza smiled when a cunning plan formed.

Ah, this would go perfectly. Aza would be fine by himself, so…

“The path splits,” he said, turning around just in time to see Sid squeeze himself through the gap. Estinien followed with a lot more ease, his lanky frame practically slipping through as easily as an eel from one’s grip, “You two take the left, and I’ll take the right.”

“Should we split up?” Sid said, crossing his arms and fixing Aza with a suspicious look, “Isn’t that going against why we’re here in the first place?”

“It’ll be fine,” Aza said breezily, “I don’t feel any dangerous presences about, and the power’s out from the looks of it.”

Estinien was giving him a very penetrating, stern look, clearly seeing through Aza’s ploy. Aza merely avoided looking at him, rubbing a hand behind his ear as Sid continued to look dubious about the whole thing. Ah, he did say that he wanted them two to come along for extra firepower. Might’ve shot himself in the foot with that excuse…

“Look, we could go together down each corridor, but it’ll take forever,” Aza said, “The real danger in these facilities is getting overrun by swarms of old magitek, so as long as you remember that, we’ll be fine splitting up.”

“I have your linkpearl number, if it comes to it,” Estinien said, reaching up to tap his. Aza heard an answering ping from his own, “The connection still works down here.”

“Yeah, we can call each other if something happens,” Aza said, “So?”

“Ugh, fine,” Sid relented, “But I don’t like it.”

“You’re such a worrywart,” Aza teased, smacking his bicep playfully, “Relax. It’ll be fine. Alright, enjoy getting to know each other you two!”

With that, Aza made his quick escape to let Estinien and Sid get to know each other – hopefully intimately – walking down the right corridor with a slight spring in his step. The dark, ominous air about him dampened his good cheer somewhat, but Aza didn’t let it bother him. Allagan ruins were old hat, and unless this also spat out a cyborg behemoth at him or some chained up Elder Primal, which he would’ve already sensed, there wasn’t much in here that could hurt him.

That was, of course, jinxing it.